Tizi Android malware highlights the importance of security patches for high-risk users

Posted by   Martijn Grooten on   Nov 28, 2017

A well-known security researcher once said: "if you purposely choose Android you are either Poor, Cheap, or really hate Apple."

Android has a bad reputation in security circles, though these days that is less because of a lack of effort on Google's part and more because of the prevalence of many older devices with unpatched vulnerabilities.

It is easy to make this problem seem bigger than it is. The typical Android vulnerability still requires an app to be installed which, on non-rooted devices, means that the app first needs to get onto Google Play – this is something that malware manages to do, quite regularly, and sometimes with a worryingly large number of downloads.

However, the prevalence of such Android malware is still small compared to that of Windows malware and may, for the average home user, not justify the cost of a new phone.

For users with a more advanced threat model, things are different though. A good example of this is 'Tizi', a backdoor family discovered by researchers from Google, which used various apps found on Google Play. The malware used one of nine vulnerabilities, all patched between 2013 and 2015, to obtain root on a device which was then used to record calls, siphon out messages, and access personal information.

It is unclear what kinds of users were targeted by this malware, but interestingly, some 80% of installations were found in Kenya, once again highlighting that malware is a truly global problem. (Those who attended Tyrus Kamau's VB2017 talk "The state of security in Africa: Kenya" will, of course, not be surprised by this.)

tizipiechart.png
Tizi installations by country. Source: Google.

Targeted malware attacks are certainly not limited to powerful intelligence agencies, and victims may be targeted for political, business and sometimes very personal reasons, as the widespread use of spyware in domestic abuse cases shows. For such potential victims, using a phone that will receive security patches is an important first step in their digital defence.

Finally, Google deserves credit for taking down this malware and for implicitly admitting that its efforts to keep Google Play malware-free are not 100% successful. That too, is an important first step.

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

 

Latest posts:

VB2018 video: The Big Bang Theory by APT-C-23

Today, we release the video of the VB2018 presentation by Check Point researcher Aseel Kayal, who connected the various dots relating to campaigns by the APT-C-23 threat group.

VB2019 London - join us for the most international threat intelligence conference!

VB calls on organisations and individuals involved in threat intelligence from around the world to participate in next year's Virus Bulletin conference.

VB2018 paper: Tracking Mirai variants

Today, we publish the VB2018 paper by Qihoo 360 researchers Ya Liu and Hui Wang, on extracting data from variants of the Mirai botnet to classify and track variants.

VB2018 paper: Hide'n'Seek: an adaptive peer-to-peer IoT botnet

2018 has seen an increase in the variety of botnets living on the Internet of Things - such as Hide'N'Seek, which is notable for its use of peer-to-peer for command-and-control communication. Today, we publish the VB2018 paper by Bitdefender…

New paper: Botception: botnet distributes script with bot capabilities

In a new paper, Avast researchers Jan Sirmer and Adolf Streda look at how a spam campaign sent via the Necurs botnet was delivering the Flawed Ammyy RAT. As well as publishing the paper, we have also released the video of the reseachers' VB2018…

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.