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Lipizzan malware for Android could spy on users and steal their data

27 July 2017

The warning comes after Google discovered a new form of Android malware, called Lipizzan, that can record phone calls, monitor the device's location, retrieve data from popular apps and even make recordings from the device's microphone. "Google Play Protect has notified all affected devices and removed the Lipizzan apps".

Google's Android Security team announced today the discovery of a new powerful Android spyware - named Lipizzan - which Google claims to be linked to Equus Technologies, an Israeli company that describes itself on its LinkedIn page as beign specialized "in the development of tailor made innovative solutions for law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and national security organizations". If the handset met certain criteria, the second stage of Lipizzan would kick in and root the device while establishing a connection to the Command and Control server operated by malicious actors to send back files and recordings.

"The first stage found by Google Play Protect was distributed through several channels, including Google Play, and typically impersonated an innocuous-sounding app such as a "Backup" or "Cleaner" app", Google explains.

But they were flagged again nearly immediately, and Google blocked the developer's account.

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Google stated that fewer than 100 devices were infected, which accounts for 0.000007% Android devices, and the company managed to remove the infection with Google Play Protect completely, while also simultaneously blocking the install on other devices. It could also snap screenshots of the user's device and hijack the camera to take pictures or record video.

Google blocked the first set of Lipizzan apps, but even then new versions were uploaded within a week of the takedown; this time created to look like apps including notepads, sound recorders and alarm managers. A second wave of apps containing the malware posed as notepad, sound recorder, and alarm manager apps.

"The new apps were uploaded within a week of the takedown, showing that the authors have a method of easily changing the branding of the implant apps", Google noted.

Google has dubbed the new batch of surveillance apps Lipizzan. According to the company's findings, fewer than 100 devices had the malicious apps installed on their devices.

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Based on the limited spread, it's unlikely the spyware has ever impacted general Android users. This second stage would survey the infected device.

It is unclear who was operating the malware, or what was the goal of deploying it on the official Google Play Store.

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Lipizzan malware for Android could spy on users and steal their data