Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Malware & Threats

“PluginPhantom” Android Trojan Uses Plugins to Evade Detection

A recently discovered Android Trojan dubbed “PluginPhantom” abuses a legitimate plugin framework to update itself and evade static detection, Palo Alto Networks reported on Wednesday.

A recently discovered Android Trojan dubbed “PluginPhantom” abuses a legitimate plugin framework to update itself and evade static detection, Palo Alto Networks reported on Wednesday.

PluginPhantom focuses on data theft and it’s capable of stealing files, contacts, location data and Wi-Fi information. The threat can also take photos, capture screenshots, intercept and send SMS messages, record audio and log keystrokes.

PluginPhantom is believed to be a successor of Android.Trojan.Ihide, a piece of malware analyzed by TrustLock in July. However, unlike other Android Trojans and its predecessor, PluginPhantom is based on a type of design architecture where the malicious application is divided into a main host app and multiple plugins.

To achieve this, it uses DroidPlugin, a plugin framework developed by Chinese security firm Qihoo 360. DroidPlugin enables a host application to run multiple plugins without the need to install them. This has allowed PluginPhantom developers to implement various malicious functions in different plugins, which can be loaded and launched by the host app.

PluginPhantom has nine plugins embedded in the host app as asset files. These include three core plugins, designed for command and control (C&C) server communications and updates, and six plugins focusing on data theft.

In addition to the functionality provided by the plugins, the main app includes keylogging capabilities obtained by abusing Accessibility features.

Palo Alto Networks researchers told SecurityWeek that they have no reason to believe the malware has made it onto Google Play, but they don’t have any information on how the threat has been distributed.

There is also no information on who might be targeted, but the security firm pointed out that the location data collected by the malware is translated to coordinate systems used by Baidu Maps and Amap Maps, navigation apps that are highly popular in China.

By hiding the malicious functionality in plugins, the Android Trojan increases its chances of evading static detection mechanisms. PluginPhantom appears to be the first Android Trojan to leverage this method, but experts believe other malware developers may start using it and it’s possible that it will end up replacing the widely used repackaging techniques.

“Since the plugin development pattern is generic and the plugin SDK can be easily embedded, the plugin architecture could be a trend among Android malware in the future,” Palo Alto Networks researchers said.

In related news, researchers from Check Point Software Technologies shared details on Wednesday of new Android malware that has compromised more than a million Google Accounts. Dubbed Gooligan by the security firm, the malware targets devices running Android 4 and 5 and can steal authentication tokens stored on devices which can be used to access sensitive data from Gmail, Google Photos, Google Docs and other services, including G Suite.

Related Reading: Android Malware Improves Resilience

Related Reading: iOS App Patching Tool “Rollout” Prone to Abuse

Written By

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.

Click to comment

Expert Insights

Related Content

Malware & Threats

Microsoft plans to improve the protection of Office users by blocking XLL add-ins from the internet.


CISA, NSA, and MS-ISAC issued an alert on the malicious use of RMM software to steal money from bank accounts.


Chinese threat actor DragonSpark has been using the SparkRAT open source backdoor in attacks targeting East Asian organizations.

Application Security

Electric car maker Tesla is using the annual Pwn2Own hacker contest to incentivize security researchers to showcase complex exploit chains that can lead to...


A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...

Malware & Threats

Cybercrime in 2017 was a tumultuous year "full of twists and turns", with new (but old) infection methods, a major return to social engineering,...

Malware & Threats

Norway‎-based DNV said a ransomware attack on its ship management software impacted 1,000 vessels.


Security researchers with Juniper Networks’ Threat Labs warn of a new Python-based backdoor targeting VMware ESXi virtualization servers.