Security Experts:

Malicious Android App Disguises Itself as Google+ Mobile App

Malware Lets Attackers Snoop on Victims’ Calls and Record GPS Location of the Device

Researchers from Trend Micro have uncovered a new variant of a malicious Google Android app that is making the rounds and disguising itself as a Google+ app.

ANDROIDOS_NICKISPY.CDubbed ANDROIDOS_NICKISPY.C, the malware allows attackers to snoop on victims’ calls and record the GPS location of the device. In addition, attackers can steal text messages and collect call log information and send it to a remote server. It is one of three variants of the malware Trend Micro has identified in less than two weeks.

“This malware comes in the guise of Google+, Google’s most recent foray into the social networking scene, in an attempt to hide from affected users,” blogged Mark Balanza, a threats analyst with Trend Micro, adding the app “is installed using the name, Google++.”

According to Balanza, version C is capable of receiving commands via text messages. Like the other ANDROIDOS_NICKISPY variants, ANDROIDOS_NICKISPY.C can record phone calls made from infected devices. A key difference however, is that now an attacker also has the ability to answer calls as well. In order for this capability to work, the call must come from the number on the “controller” tag from the malware’s configuration file, and the phone screen must be turned off.

Related Reading: Advanced Fraud Threats in Mobile Environments

“Before answering the call, it puts the phone on silent mode to prevent the affected user from hearing it,” Balanza blogged. “It also hides the dial pad and sets the current screen to display the home page. During testing, after the malware answered the phone, the screen went blank.”

“The “auto-answering” function of this malicious Android app works only on Android 2.2 and below since theMODIFY_PHONE_STATE permission was disabled in Android 2.3,” he added.

Google Android security has become a frequent topic of discussion this year. In May, Juniper Networks reported there has been a 400 percent increase in Android malware since the summer of 2010.

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