Android malware served via compromised websites

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   May 3, 2012

Malware downloaded automatically, but requires user permission to be installed.

Researchers at mobile security company Lookout have discovered a number of compromised websites that make Android devices automatically download (but not install) a malicious application.

Drive-by downloads are a common threat to PCs and Macs: they are generally served through compromised websites and use unpatched vulnerabilities to silently install malware. In this particular threat, the malware is served in an iframe and only to those devices with a user-agent that contains the string android; requests from other browsers result in a blank iframe.

One important difference between this and common drive-by download attacks is that the malicious app does not install unless the user has set their device to allow apps from 'unknown sources'; that is, from sources other than Google Play, the official Android marketplace. Moreover, it does not exploit any vulnerability and the user needs to give explicit permission for the app to be installed - though as it claims to be a security update, many users will probably be tricked into giving permission.

Once installed, the app - which the researchers have called 'NotCompatible' - does not appear to cause any direct harm to the device. However, given the permissons it requires, it could be used to gain access to corporate networks and turn the device into a TCP proxy.

The researchers believe that the affected sites show relatively low traffic and thus expect the total impact to Android users to be low. However, as yet another PC threat makes it to mobile devices, mobile users ought to realise they cannot ignore the security of their devices any longer.

More at Lookout's blog here.

At VB2012 (Dallas, 26-28 September) ESET's Righard Zwienenberg will present a paper looking at the security risks of employees using their personal devices for corporate means. Registration for VB2012 is now open.

Posted on 3 May 2012 by Virus Bulletin

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