Paper: Inside the iOS/AdThief malware

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Aug 12, 2014

75,000 jailbroken iOS devices infected with malware that steals ad revenues.

Believing that the device or operating system you use reduces your chance of being affected by malware is generally a bad idea, but those using iOS have the numbers on their side: malware targeting Apple's mobile platform is very rare.

But very rare doesn't mean non-existent. Today, we publish a paper by Axelle Apvrille, a researcher from Fortinet in France, in which she studies the iOS/AdThief malware.

First discovered in March 2014, AdThief (or Spad, as its developers call it) has infected 75,000 devices. It uses the Cydia Substrate extension, which only works on jailbroken devices; hence so does AdThief.

AdThief uses Cydia Substrate to modify the developer ID sent when an advertisement is displayed or clicked, so that the revenue goes to the entity controlling the malware rather than to the legitimate advertiser. Axelle found 15 adkits targeted by the malware, eight of which are Chinese. It should be noted that jailbreaking mobile devices is a relatively common practice in China. An estimated 75,000 infected devices doesn't make the malware very prevalent, but with an estimated 22 million hijacked ads, it provides a decent amount of pocket money for the owners.

Using some debugging information that was left in the code, Axelle was able to deduce that the malware was written by a Chinese hacker, 'Rover12421'. He (or she) has confirmed having written part of the code, but denies having participated in the propagation of the malware.

You can download the paper here in HTML format, or here as a PDF (no registration required).

If you like this paper, you will be pleased to know that Axelle has regularly written for Virus Bulletin and spoken at the VB conference on various aspects of mobile malware. In July, we published a paper on the obfuscation of Android malware by Axelle and her colleague Ruchna Nigam: 'Obfuscation in Android malware, and how to fight back'.

Posted on 12 August 2014 by Martijn Grooten

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
hackernews.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

VB2019 call for papers closes this weekend

The call for papers for VB2019 closes on 17 March, and while we've already received many great submissions, we still want more!

Registration open for VB2019 ─ book your ticket now!

Registration for VB2019, the 29th Virus Bulletin International Conference, is now open, with an early bird rate available until 1 July.

The VB2019 call for papers is about ... papers

When we are calling for papers for the Virus Bulletin conference as we are doing now, we really mean a written paper. But don't worry if you've never written a paper - we can help!

VB2018 video: Adware is just malware with a legal department - how we reverse engineered OSX/Pirrit, received legal threats, and survived

Amit Serper first analysed the OSX/Pirrit adware in 2016, highlighting some of its malware-like techniques, and soon afterwards started receiving legal threats from the company behind it. At VB2018 Amit gave a presentation in which he discussed both…

VB2018 paper: Anatomy of an attack: detecting and defeating CRASHOVERRIDE

In December 2016, the CRASHOVERRIDE malware framework was used to cause a blackout in Ukraine. At VB2018 in Montreal, Dragos researcher Joe Slowik presented a detailed paper on the framework, explaining how the malware works and how it targets…

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.