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Malware Alerts Prompt Google to Purge Android Apps From Play Store

17 September 2017

The malware family uses a common obfuscation technique known as packing that enables apps to hide their maliciousness from Google's scanners by compressing or encrypting the executable file before it's uploaded to Play Store. However, a mere few days later, another application containing the malware again became available on Google Play and infected more than 5,000 Android devices before Google removed that one as well, Check Point said.

The ExpensiveWall app used a method through which malicious content was effectively hidden from anti-malware protections that were integrated into Google Play Store.

"The new strain of malware is dubbed "ExpensiveWall", after one of the apps it uses to infect devices, "Lovely Wallpaper". Not only did it force people to sign up with subscriptions via SMS, but it was also able to remotely install applications as well as leaking user information including the phone number, Global Positioning System location, installed apps, and IP address. Check Point discovered it and shows that it sends fraudulent premium SMS messages so it can charge users' accounts for fake services without them knowing anything about it.

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When the victims install the application, it requests a permission to access the internet and send and receive SMS messages.

Unlike the previously discovered version, this strain of malware uses so-called "packing", an advanced obfuscation technique created to bypass Google's built-in security filters. After that, the ExpensiveWall malware sends back to the C&C server handset information, including its location, MAC and IP addresses, IMSI, and IMEI numbers. It is even more risky as the malware is capable of operating silently without the victim's knowledge, turning it into the ultimate spying tool.

What makes ExpensiveWall different and more risky than its other family members is that it is "Packed" - with an advanced obfuscation technique used by malware creators to encrypt malicious code.

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Fortunately, reviewers that installed those apps left negative reviews with messages such as "Spam app", "Scam", "Virus detected", "It is NOTHING like the ad on Instagram" and this might have prevented others to install them.

Javvad Malik, security advocate at AlienVault, said: "With so much money being flushed into mobile phones and the technology that surrounds them, it's no surprise criminals are targeting their malware efforts in this direction".

Other infected apps had names like "I Love Fliter", "Tool Box Pro", "X WALLPAPER", "Horoscope", "X Wallpaper Pro", "Beautiful Camera", and "Color Camera".

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ExpensiveWall can only work when permissions are granted so it is important to check exactly what you downloading and agreeing to.

Malware Alerts Prompt Google to Purge Android Apps From Play Store