A new family of Android malware adds insult to injury by making users pay for the data-stealing application.
Palo Alto Networks found three variants of the malware, which it calls Gunpoder, masquerading as emulator applications used to play Nintendo games.
Antivirus engines are having trouble detecting Gunpoder’s malicious code since it is packaged with an adware library called Airpush, wrote Cong Zheng and Zhi Xu of Palo Alto’s Unit 42 research group.
“The malware samples successfully use these advertisement libraries to hide malicious behaviors from detection by antivirus engines,” they wrote. “While antivirus engines may flag Gunpoder as being adware, by not flagging it as being overtly malicious, most engines will not prevent Gunpoder from executing.”
Gunpoder apps can do a variety of invasive actions, including collecting bookmarks and browser histories, sending itself to other people over SMS, showing fraudulent advertisements and executing other code.
And users get to pay for that data-stealing capability. When a Gunpoder app is launched, it asks users to buy a lifelong license for the emulator for US$0.20 or $0.49, payable through PayPal or Skrill.
So far, Gunpoder appears to be targeting people in Iraq, Thailand, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Russia, France, Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Italy, the U.S. and Spain, Palo Alto said.
Curiously, the malware is programmed to not send itself by SMS to other numbers in a phone’s contact list if the user is in China.
Its coders have also co-opted the Airpush advertising library with a fraudulent ad.
“The fraudulent advertisement page attempts to mimic a Facebook page,” Palo Alto wrote. “It requests that victims finish a number of surveys and asks them to install various applications in order to receive a gift.”