December 5, 2018 By Douglas Bonderud 2 min read

Fake voice apps have been spotted on Google Play, and researchers suggested that more could be on the way.

As reported by Trend Micro, multiple malicious voice communication and messaging apps have been spotted on Google Play in the last month. While they appear legitimate at first glance, these messaging platforms leverage modular downloaders to contact command-and-control (C&C) servers, obtain payloads and serve up fake surveys designed to steal user data. They’re lightweight and minimally invasive, reducing the chance of detection by users or device security systems.

Once installed, the app contacts a C&C server for its payload. This contains an “Icon” module that hides the application’s actual icon to subvert uninstall attempts, and a “Wpp” module that opens arbitrary browser URLs and allows the malware to generate fake surveys intended to capture personal information such as names, phone numbers and home addresses. In addition, these apps contain a dynamic library module called “Socks” that integrates with Ares-C. While the researchers didn’t see Socks in action, they believe it may be a developing feature for use in new malware iterations.

Based on code similarities, Trend Micro believes these fake apps have the same authors and suggested that, despite Google’s removal of these apps from the Play Store, more are likely on the way as malware makers discover better ways to obscure malicious code.

What Is the Impact to Users?

For users, the immediate impact of these fake voice apps is having to deal with random URLs and persistent fake surveys. Uninstallation is also frustrating, since the applications take steps to prevent easy removal.

Trend Micro speculated that the malware operators’ current campaign may be a test run for a larger-scale botnet. Here, the ongoing impact is more worrisome: If whisper-quiet voice apps make their way onto user devices, compromise them without notice and leverage them for botnet-based attacks, the sheer numbers could be daunting at best and devastating at worst — especially if these applications make their way into popular download platforms.

Be Vigilant to Spot Fake Voice Apps

Google has taken steps to remove these applications from the Play Store. But with the specter of new versions on the way, users and organizations must take steps to protect mobile devices from these trash-talking apps.

From an end-user standpoint, IBM X-Force recommends regular software updates for both operating systems and antivirus solutions to help reduce the success rate of fake application infections. Meanwhile, IBM security experts advise enterprises to invest in unified endpoint management (UEM) tools that enable IT teams to view, manage and protect all corporate-connected devices before they become fake voice app victims.

Source: Trend Micro

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