August 19, 2019 By David Bisson 2 min read

An evasive family of adware posed as 85 photography and gaming apps available for download on the Google Play store.

Trend Micro observed that the adware, detected as AndroidOS_Hidenad.HRXH, had infiltrated 85 apps available for download on Google Play. Those programs boasted a combined total of 8 million downloads at the time of detection. The security firm disclosed its findings to Google, at which time the tech giant’s researchers removed the apps from Google Play.

Once launched, the malicious apps recorded the current time and network time from an infected device. They then registered a Broadcast Receiver to help monitor if a user was present after someone had woken up the device. The apps arrived with techniques through which they could evade time-based detection techniques or other capabilities employed by traditional sandboxes. Beyond those tactics, the apps hid their icons, created a shortcut on the home screen and used Java reflection to further avoid analysis.

Hidden Adware on the Play Store

Threat actors have a history of concealing adware on the Google Play store. In November 2018, Trend Micro came across several apps on the Play store disguised as voice messenger platforms that sought to generate fraudulent ad clicks and automatically display fake surveys.

Several months later, Check Point uncovered 206 applications infected with SimBad adware, which had collectively registered close to 150 million downloads on the Play store. And in June 2019, Lookout discovered 238 applications available for download on the Google Play store that each harbored BeiTaPlugin, adware that rendered an infected device nearly unusable.

How to Defend Against Mobile Threats

Security professionals can help defend their organizations against mobile threats by using artificial intelligence-powered solutions that use context and other information to determine whether certain device behaviors are legitimate. Companies should also leverage a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution to monitor how devices interact with the environment and flag anything that might appear suspicious.

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