November 6, 2015 By Shane Schick 2 min read

Remote administration tools can be hugely helpful to the increasingly mobile workforce, but malware analysts say a product called OmniRAT has turned into a highly effective means of stealing data.

The research team at Avast provided details of security incidents involving OmniRAT, which is made in Germany and not necessarily intended for cybercriminal activity. In at least one case, however, victims were fooled into thinking the Android Stagefright vulnerability was preventing them from receiving an MMS and they needed to click on a bit.ly link to get it. They would then enter a code based on a malicious SMS that gives cybercriminals control over an Android device. This meant cybercriminals were also able to more easily distribute malware by accessing users’ contact lists.

Unfortunately, remote administration tools have a history of being hijacked for nefarious purposes. Before OmniRAT, there was DroidJack, SecurityWeek pointed out, which was also co-opted by India-based cybercriminals to take over Android devices. The malicious use of DroidJack is still under investigation by European law enforcement authorities.

What may make OmniRat even more attractive to cybercriminals is its price tag. For a mere $25, they have access to a tool that can be paired with fairly straightforward social engineering techniques to target mobile users. This compares with $210 for DroidJack on the black market, TechWorm reported. Besides stealing data, the tool could also be used to probe browser histories and record conversations, so the potential for damage, particularly among smartphone users conducting business remotely, is huge.

The misuse of software like OmniRAT has gotten so bad that they’ve begun to be called remote-access Trojans, according to Softpedia. On the other hand, it’s difficult if not impossible to outlaw remote administration tools entirely because they can also be put to good use. For example, they can be used for testing or as a tool for staff developers.

You’re safe from something like OmniRAT if you ignore an SMS that comes from attackers. If you’re a CISO or part of an IT security team, it would also help to educate or remind staff to make sure they aren’t too quick to bypass permissions popups that could prevent cybercriminals from taking the next step and controlling their devices.

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