Vulnerability In Fully Patched Android Phones Under Active Attack By Bank Thieves

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A vulnerability in millions of fully patched Android phones is being actively exploited by malware that’s designed to drain the bank accounts of infected users, researchers said on Monday. The vulnerability allows malicious apps to masquerade as legitimate apps that targets have already installed and come to trust, researchers from security firm Promon reported in a post. Running under the guise of trusted apps already installed, the malicious apps can then request permissions to carry out sensitive tasks, such as recording audio or video, taking photos, reading text messages or phishing login credentials. Targets who click yes to the request are then compromised.

Researchers with Lookout, a mobile security provider and a Promon partner, reported last week that they found 36 apps exploiting the spoofing vulnerability. The malicious apps included variants of the BankBot banking trojan. BankBot has been active since 2017, and apps from the malware family have been caught repeatedly infiltrating the Google Play Market. The vulnerability is most serious in versions 6 through 10, which account for about 80% of Android phones worldwide. Attacks against those versions allow malicious apps to ask for permissions while posing as legitimate apps. There’s no limit to the permissions these malicious apps can seek. Access to text messages, photos, the microphone, camera, and GPS are some of the permissions that are possible. A user’s only defense is to click “no” to the requests.

“The vulnerability is found in a function known as TaskAffinity, a multitasking feature that allows apps to assume the identity of other apps or tasks running in the multitasking environment,” reports Ars Technica. While Google has removed the [unnamed] malicious apps from its Play Store, according to Promon, the vulnerability is still unfixed in all versions of Android.

“Promon is calling the vulnerability ‘StrandHogg,’ an old Norse term for the Viking tactic of raiding coastal areas to plunder and hold people for ransom,” the report adds. “Promon researchers said they identified StrandHogg after learning from an unnamed Eastern European security company for financial institutions that several banks in the Czech Republic reported money disappearing from customer accounts.”