A recently spotted fake Netflix app is in fact installing a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) variant onto the victims’ devices, Zscaler security researchers have discovered.
Preying on the popularity of applications isn’t a new technique, with fake Super Mario Run games for Android recently used to distribute the Marcher and DroidJack Trojans. Now, it seems that the actors behind the SpyNote RAT have decided to use the same technique and leverage the enormous traction Netflix has among users looking to stream full movies and TV programs to their mobile devices.
Instead of a video streaming app, however, users end up with a RAT that can take advantage of their device in numerous ways, such as listening to live conversations by activating the microphone, executing arbitrary commands, sending files to a command and control (C&C) server, recording screen captures, viewing contacts, and reading SMS messages.
The fake Netflix app was supposedly created using an updated version of the SpyNote RAT builder, which leaked online last year, Zscaler reveals. Once installed, the app would display the icon that the legitimate Netflix app on Google Play has, but it should by no means be mistaken for it.
When the user clicks on the icon for the first time it disappears from the homescreen and nothing else seems to happen, a trick commonly used by mobile malware. In the background, however, the malware starts preparing its onslaught of attacks.
SpyNote RAT was found to use a free DNS service for C&C communication, as well as to leverage the Services, Broadcast Receivers, and Activities components of the Android platform to remain up and running on the infected device.
“Services can perform long-running operations in the background and does not need a user interface. Broadcast Receivers are Android components that can register themselves for particular events. Activities are key building blocks, central to an app’s navigation, for example,” Zscaler researchers note.
Additionally, the malware can uninstall apps from the infected device (such as antivirus protections), was designed to function only over Wi-Fi (to avoid raising suspicion), and can even click photos, the security researchers say. SpyNote RAT also collects the device’s location to identify the exact location of the victim, and packs various data exfiltration capabilities.
According to Zscaler, the SpyNote RAT builder was seen gaining popularity in the hacking community. It can be used to create various fake apps to masquerade the malware, such as WhatsApp, YouTube Video Downloader, Google Update, Instagram, Hack Wifi, AirDroid, WifiHacker, Facebook, Photoshop, SkyTV, Hotstar, Trump Dash, and Pokemon GO (the game was abused for malware distribution even before being launched on Android).
“Furthermore, we found that in just the first two weeks of 2017, there have been more than 120 such spyware variants already built using the same SpyNote Trojan builder as SpyNote RAT and roaming in the wild,” the security researchers say. A similar trend is usually observed after the source code of a piece of malware leaks online.
To stay protected, users should refrain from installing applications via third-party app stores or to side-load them, especially if they are games that haven’t yet been released on Android, such as Super Mario Run or Pokemon GO. “You should also avoid the temptation to play games from sources other than legitimate app stores; such games are not safe and may bring harm to your reputation and your bank account,” Zscaler concludes.
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