Location Tracking Spyware Found In Google Play Store



The SMS malware allows attackers to pinpoint the precise location of infected victims.

picture: iStock

Android malware capable of getting access to the location of smartphone customers and sending it to cyberattackers remained undetected in the Google Play retailer three years in line with a safety firm.

discovered by using cybersecurity researchers at Zscaler, the SMSVova Android spyware and adware poses as a gadget update in the Play store and was once downloaded between one million and 5 million instances because it first appeared in 2014.

The app claims to offer users get right of entry to to the most recent Android gadget updates, nevertheless it’s in fact malware designed to compromise the victims’ smartphone and supply the users’ precise region in real-time.

Researchers turn into suspicious of the appliance, in part as a result of a string of terrible evaluations complaining that the app would not replace the Android OS and causes phones to run slowly and drains battery lifestyles. different indicators which ended in Zscaler looking into the app including blank screenshots on the store web page and no proper description for what the app in fact does.

certainly, the only data the store page supplied about the ‘device replace’ app is that it ‘updates and permits special vicinity’ options. It would not inform the consumer what it’s in reality doing – that it’s going to send vicinity data to a third birthday party, a tactic which it exploits to undercover agent on ambitions.



SMSVova in the Google Play store.

picture: Zscaler

as soon as the consumer has downloaded the app and attempts to run it, they’re in an instant met with a message stating “unfortunately, update provider has stopped” and the app hides its run icon from the software display.

however the app hasn’t failed, but rather the adware sets up a characteristic known as MyLocationService to fetch the remaining recognized place of the consumer and set it up in Shared Preferences, the Android interface for getting access to and modifying data.

The app additionally units up an IncomingSMS receiver to scan for explicit incoming textual content messages which incorporate directions for the malware. for example, if the attacker sends a text pronouncing “get faq” to the software, the adware responds with instructions for further assaults or passwording the adware with ‘Vova’ – therefore the name of the malware.

Zscaler researchers counsel that the reliance on SMS to begin up the malware is the reason that antivirus device didn’t realize the malware at any point right through the ultimate three years.

as soon as the malware is fully set up, the adware is capable of sending the instrument area to the attacker – even though who the attackers are and why they need the positioning knowledge of normal Android users is still a mystery.

The app hasn’t been up to date given that December 2014, but it’s nonetheless infected a whole bunch of lots of victims since then and as researchers be aware, the dearth of an update does not imply the performance of the malware is lifeless.

What’s fascinating however is that SMSVova appears to share code with the DroidJack Trojan, indicating that whoever is in the back of the malware is an skilled actor who appears to specialise in targeting Android programs.

The fake device replace app has now been removed from the Google Play retailer following Zscaler reporting it to the Google security staff, even if that does not do anything to assist the individuals who’ve downloaded it during the last three years who should still be compromised by means of SMSVova.

whereas Google retains the vast majority of its 1.4 billion Android customers safe from malware, there are repeated instances of malware and even ransomware which have the capacity to sneak past defences and into the legitimate Android retailer.

ZDNet has contacted Google for comment on why the malware was once within the Play retailer for 3 years, but is but to obtain a reply.

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