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Android Malware Can Replace Real Apps With Fake Apps

By July 27, 2019May 17th, 2022Cybersecurity

Security researchers at Check Point have discovered a disturbing new strain of Android malware that’s as ingenious as it is disturbing.  It is effective because it is designed to replace a rapidly expanding number of apps with poisoned copies.

The app copies still retain their core functionality, making the malware notoriously difficult to detect.

After all, if you downloaded JioTV, a photo editing app of some kind, or a game, and the app works as you expect it to, why would you even suspect that it was malware?  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this new malware strain does.

Dubbed ‘Agent Smith,’ the malware takes advantage of different android vulnerabilities and injects malicious code into the APK files of targeted apps defined by a list inside the code. They then automatically update and re-install them without the device owner’s knowledge or consent.

The Check Point researchers had this to say about the new strain:

“It’s not enough for this malware family to swap just one innocent application with an infected double.  It does so for each and every app on the device, as long as the package names are on its prey list.

Over time, this campaign will also infect the same device repeatedly, with the latest malicious patches.  This leads us to estimate there are to be over 2.8 billion infections in total, on around 25 million unique devices, meaning that on average, each victim would have suffered roughly 112 swaps of innocent applications.”

Of course, the last thing the malware’s creators want is for the app to be legitimately updated. So part of the strain’s design is to disable that functionality from inside the app so the hackers can control the updates.

If there’s a silver lining, it is that to date, the malware doesn’t contain any data siphoning or data destroying code.  All it does is display ads.  Unfortunately, the malware strain’s owners can easily shift gears any time they want to.

Jason Manteiga

Jason J. Manteiga, Vice President of Olmec Systems, has been part of the company for over the past 20 years. He believes that having a great work environment and supportive team, is the ultimate key to success. Since being in the IT realm for over 25 years, Jason, along with Olmec Systems, has been on the Inc. 5000 “List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies” and Channel Futures MSP 501 “Top Managed Service Providers in North America,” along with other awards and nominations. Jason earned his Bachelor Degree in Information Systems from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He also holds certifications in Microsoft MCSE, VMWare VCP, and Cisco CCNA. In his spare time, Jason is a contributor for The Center for Social & Legal Research (Privacy Exchange) and a member of the Morris County Chamber of Commerce. His hobbies include cycling and kayaking. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife, two daughters and son.