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New Monero-Mining Android Malware Discovered

A newly discovered malware family attempts to leverage the (limited) computing power of Android devices to mine for Monero crypto-currency, Trend Micro warns.

A newly discovered malware family attempts to leverage the (limited) computing power of Android devices to mine for Monero crypto-currency, Trend Micro warns.

Dubbed HiddenMiner, the malware was developed with self-protection and persistence mechanisms that allow it to hide itself from the unwitting user and to abuse the Device Administrator feature to perform its nefarious activities.

The main issue with this threat, however, is the fact that it has no switch, controller, or optimizer in its code, meaning that it essentially continuously mines for Monero until all of the device’s resources are depleted. Because of that, the malware can cause the infected devices to overheat and potentially fail, Trend Micro’s researchers point out.

HiddenMiner is used in an active campaign that has resulted in its operators already making several thousands of dollars as of last week (based on the known Monero mining pools and wallets connected to the malware).

HiddenMiner, Trend Micro says, is somehow similar to the Loapi Monero-mining Android malware, which has been previously observed causing a device’s battery to bloat. Furthermore, both Loapi and HiddenMiner use a similar technique to lock the device screen after revoking device administration permissions.

The new threat spreads via third-party application marketplaces and has been observed impacting only users in India and China so far. However, the security researchers say it might spread beyond these two countries as well.

The malware masquerades as a legitimate Google Play update application, featuring the Google Play icon and appearing on the Android device’s screen as The miner then asks the user to activate it as a device administrator and continuously displays the pop-up window until the users grants it the requested permissions.

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Once installed, HiddenMiner empties the app label and uses a transparent icon to hide itself from the user. As soon as the device administrator rights are enabled, it hides from the app launcher by calling setComponentEnableSetting() and starts the mining operation in the background.

The threat hides itself and automatically runs with administrator permissions until the next device boot, the same as the DoubleHidden Android adware does.

Furthermore, the malware includes anti-emulator capabilities that allow it to bypass detection and automated analysis. It leverages an Android emulator detector found on Github for that.

To prevent victims from removing the acquired device administrator privileges, HiddenMiner locks the device’s screen when the user attempts to perform this action. For that, it abuses a bug in Android releases prior to Android 7.0 Nougat, the security researchers say.

In newer Android releases, device admin applications can no longer lock the screen. This security improvement prevents other malware such as ransomware and information stealers from abusing the device admin privileges as well.

“HiddenMiner is yet another example of how cybercriminals are riding the cryptocurrency mining wave. For users and businesses, this reinforces the importance of practicing mobile security hygiene: download only from official app marketplaces, regularly update the device’s OS (or ask the original equipment manufacturer for their availability), and be more prudent with the permissions you grant to applications,” Trend Micro concludes.

Related: Crypto-mining Botnet Targets Android Devices

Related: Loapi Android Trojan Does All Sorts of Bad

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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