NewsNovember 13, 2017 @ 2:30 PM

Toast Overlay Attacks Prompt Malware Removal for Android Users

Android users may be spending more time on malware removal following the discovery of an exploit associated with the Toast feature in Google’s operating system.

ToastAmigo Uses Toast Overlay Attack

Researchers at Trend Micro first warned users about the malware removal work back in September when Google patched the vulnerability. Identified as ToastAmigo, the Toast overlay attack allows notifications to display on top of other applications.

The attack fools Android users into downloading a fictitious security tool called Smart Applocker. While the app supposedly scans a device for security issues and shows progress using Android’s Toast feature, a second piece of malware, dubbed AmigoClicker, infects the smartphone. The threat can then gain access to other apps, collect information from Google accounts and even rate itself on Google Play.

According to SecurityWeek, the cybercriminals targeted Android’s Toast feature because it masks the smartphone’s display while they do their dirty work. It also doesn’t require attackers to make numerous requests that might arouse suspicion. The persistence of the technique ensures that, even once it has been discovered, malware removal might prove time-consuming and difficult.

Industry Response

Google was well-aware that Android Toast could prove attractive to cybercriminals. It conducted a proof-of-concept test involving a similar attack earlier this year, but this proved more difficult to execute than ToastAmigo, SC Magazine reported. The company then offered a fix in the hopes that it wouldn’t have yet another malware situation on its hands.

As the name implies, Toast works almost like a pop-up on the user’s screen. This makes an overlay attack harder to spot because cybercriminals can set legitimate-looking content over something that would otherwise clearly be a candidate for malware removal.

Google is taking action based on ToastAmigo, Android Soul reported. Because the Toast overlay attack is hijacking features to get at user data, app developers are being asked not to make use of Accessibility Services in Android unless the software offers disability assistance. Failure to comply could result in those apps being pulled from Google Play — before users flag any other malware removal issues.

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Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives in Toronto.