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Malware behind Android alternative

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ESET researchers have recently discovered a Turkish alternative Android app that has been spreading malware across all android apps.

ESET researchers discovered that CepKutusu.com, a Turkish alternative Android app store was spreading malware under the guise of all offered Android apps.

When users browsed the Turkish alternative app store CepKutusu.com and proceeded to downloading an app, the “Download now” button led to banking malware instead of the desired app. A few weeks after ESET researchers turned to the store’s operator with the discovery of the attack, the store ceased the malicious activity.

Interestingly, although ESET researchers found the misdirection from a legitimate app to the malicious one to be general – meaning that every single app was set to be replaced with the banking malware, the crooks behind the campaign added an exception. Probably to increase the chance to stay longer under the radar, they introduced a seven-day window of not serving malware after a malicious download. In practice, after the user downloads the infected app, a cookie is set to prevent the malicious system from prevailing, leading to the user being served clean links for next seven days. After this period passes, the user gets redirected to malware once they try to download any application from the store.

The malicious app distributed by the store at the time of the investigation was remotely controlled banking malware capable of intercepting and sending SMS, displaying fake activity, as well as downloading and installing other apps.

When installed, the malware doesn’t mimic the app the user intended to install. Instead, it imitates Flash Player.

Figure 1 – The malicious app served to a user who thinks they are downloading the Clash of Clans game and the legitimate game served to the same user within the seven day period, respectively.

Figure 1 – The malicious app served to a user who thinks they are downloading the Clash of Clans game and the legitimate game served to the same user within the seven day period, respectively.

To gain more insight on this attack and its wider implications, we turned to Lukáš Štefanko, Malware Researcher at ESET, who specializes in Android malware and who discovered the malware-distributing app store.

An app store serving its customers with malware on a mass scale – that sounds like a big threat. On the other hand, serving Flash Player instead of whatever customers wanted – that’s a rather thin disguise… What’s your take on this?

First, let me say that this is the first time I’ve seen an entire Android market infected like that. Within the Windows ecosystem and in browsers, this technique is known to have been used for some time but in the Android ecosystem, it’s really a new attack vector.

As for the impact, what we saw in this particular case was most probably a test. The crooks misused their control of the app store in the simplest manner. Replacing the links to all apps with a link to a single malicious app requires virtually no effort – but it also gives the store’s customers a fair chance to detect the scam. If you got lured into downloading a popular game and ended up with Flash Player instead… I think you’d uninstall it straight away and report the issue, right?

This might explain why we have seen only a few hundred infections.

From this point of view, it doesn’t sound like a big deal …

Well, like I said, it was probably a test. I can imagine a scenario in which the crooks who control the store’s back end append a malicious functionality to each of the apps in the store. Serving those interested in a particular game with a trojanized version of that game… That would remove the biggest red flag and the number of victims might rise significantly.

As for the attribution of this attack – have you found any traces?

There are three possible scenarios here: an app store built with the intention to spread malware; a legitimate app store turned malicious by an employee with bad intentions; and a legitimate app store becoming a victim of a remote attacker.

As for scenarios two and three, I would think that such an attack wouldn’t go unnoticed by a legitimate store. User complaints, suspicious server logs and changes in code should be sufficient indicators for its operators…. The more that the malware was being distributed via the store for weeks. Also of interest in this regard is that we contacted the store operators with our findings but haven’t received any reaction.

How to protect yourself

Recommendations by ESET

·        If possible, always favor downloading apps from official app stores.
This piece of advice is infinitely repeated for a good reason – there’s no guarantee of any security measures in alternative app stores, making them a great place for malware authors to spread their “work”, and not just via single malicious apps, but also on a mass scale, as illustrated in this case.

·         Be cautious when downloading content from the internet. Pay attention to anything suspicious in file name, size and extension – this is where many threats can still be recognized and avoided in time.

·         Use a reliable mobile security solution to protect you from the latest threats. As for the threat hidden in the alternative app store, ESET detects it as Android/Spy.Banker.IE and prevents it from getting downloaded.

Featured

Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entires via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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