Security Experts:

Android Malware Increasingly Packaged With HTML5 Apps: Trend Micro

Cybercriminals are repackaging legitimate HTML5 applications into Android malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUAs), according to Trend Micro.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) finalized the fifth major version of the hypertext markup language (HTML) specification in October. HTML5 is increasingly used by application developers, but cybercriminals are also leveraging its capabilities in their malicious activities, the security firm warned on Monday.

HTML5 enables developers to build Web apps that work on any platform. This is to the advantage of both developers and users who will no longer have to worry about applications that work only on certain mobile platforms. However, if developers don't put too much effort into protecting their code, cybercriminals will easily copy and repackage their creations.

This year, the number of new HTML5-packaged applications for Android increased by 200% compared to the previous year. However, the number of PUAs and pieces of malware also increased, with almost half of such Android threats being disguised as games, Trend Micro said.

According to researchers, cybercriminals can use two methods to package Android malware with HTML5 apps. The attackers can initiate a local webview to load attached or remote HTML5 code. By doing so, they obtain an Android application to which they can add their own malicious code.

Another method that can be used involves middleware, the software layer that lies between applications and the operating system, and which is often used to develop cross-platform programs. Cybercrooks can use development tools such as Apache Cordova to repackage HTML5 apps and inject them with malicious JavaScript code.

"In the foreseeable future we may be seeing a type of malware that can hit different mobile platforms (such as: iOS, Android, Windows Phone) all at the same time. To prevent from this, developers need to spend more efforts on code obfuscation or other coding tricks to secure their apps. Home users also need to take care of new app installations by only downloading from official app stores," Trend Micro mobile threats analyst Seven Shen wrote in a blog post.

view counter
Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.