#BlackHat: Researchers upload dangerous app to Google Play store

Powered by SC Magazine
 

Google's Bouncer beat by legit JavaScript trick.

View larger image View larger image View larger image

See all pictures here »

Two researchers demonstrated how they were able to push a malicious information-stealing app onto Google Play, even while Google's Bouncer custom malware scanner is watching.

They circumvented the Bouncer automated scanner with a JavaScript trick that transformed a benign Android app into a malicious one on Google Play.

Black Hat 2012 coverage

Nicholas Percoco and Sean Schulte of Trustwave Spider Labs developed a benevolent app called “SMS Bloxer,” which looked like other SMS blocker apps on the market.

In order to ensure regular users didn't accidentally download the app, Trustwave also priced it at $49.95, in stark contrast to similar apps, which were usually $2 or less, or free.

SMS Bloxer lived on Google Play for two weeks and didn't get flagged by Bouncer for that entire period of time. At its worst, the app was capable of  stealing contacts, SMS messages, and photos.

It could harvest information about the device or force a web page to load, the researchers said. It could also launch a denial-of-service attack.

“Google never flagged it,” Percoco said.

The internet giant, recognising that malicious applications were becoming a growing problem, introduced Bouncer in February.

Google must have realized reacting was a losing battle and some kind of app review was needed, hence Bouncer, Schulte said. There wasn't a lot of information available publicly about the technology or how it worked, which piqued Trustwave's curiosity, Percoco said.

“We wanted to test the bounds of what it's capable of," Percoco said.

The team created a benign app that just reported back to Trustwave whenever it was executed, and made it past Bouncer and onto Google Play. The team had determined Bouncer's IP address by this time, and modified the test app to act maliciously only if it was executed outside Bouncer. 

To avoid detection, the team used  the JavaScript bridge, a “legitimate” workaround supported by Android, Percoco said.

The bridge lets developers remotely add new  features to a program using JavaScript, or changing the look and feel of an app by modifying the HTML, without having to go back through the entire app approval or update process. Facebook and LinkedIn use this method for their apps, Percoco said.

Trustwave used the JavaScript bridge to add increasingly malicious capabilities to the app. Bouncer scanned the app repeatedly, but never noticed the new malicious features. Only when the team tweaked the app to execute every second did Bouncer notice it and suspend the developer account, Percoco said.

Trustwave shared its findings with Google, and Percoco said the company was a “great organization to work with." A Google spokesperson could not be reached for comment by SCMagazine.com.

This article originally appeared at scmagazineus.com

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition


 
 
 
Top Stories
 
Myer CIO named retailer's new chief executive
Richard Umbers to lead data-driven retail strategy.
 
Empty terminals and mountains of data
Qantas CIO Luc Hennekens says no-one is safe from digital disruption.
 
 
Sign up to receive iTnews email bulletins
   FOLLOW US...
Latest articles on BIT Latest Articles from BIT
Xero has released a new version of its app for the iPad
Mar 6, 2015
iPad-wielding Xero users can now take advantage of a new version of the iOS app for the cloud ...
Microsoft is offering Azure for Disaster Recovery to Australian SMBs
Feb 10, 2015
If you haven't talked to your IT provider about disaster recovery, it might be worth discussing ...
The 2015 Xero Roadshow is on: here are the locations and dates
Feb 6, 2015
The 2015 Xero Roadshow kicked off this week - see where you can attend at locations around ...
Microsoft Outlook is now on iPhone and iPad: why could this be useful?
Jan 30, 2015
Microsoft today released Office for Android and Outlook for iOS - complementing the other Office ...
Franchisees, here's something you should know about
Jan 23, 2015
You need to know the Code if you are a franchisee or franchisor as the penalties are significant.
Latest Comments
Polls
Who do you trust most to protect your private data?







   |   View results
Your bank
  35%
 
Your insurance company
  5%
 
A technology company (Google, Facebook et al)
  9%
 
Your telco, ISP or utility
  8%
 
A retailer (Coles, Woolworths et al)
  4%
 
A Federal Government agency (ATO, Centrelink etc)
  18%
 
An Australian law enforcement agency (AFP, ASIO et al)
  15%
 
A State Government agency (Health dept, etc)
  7%
TOTAL VOTES: 4155

Vote
Do you support the abolition of the Office of the Information Commissioner?

   |   View results
I support shutting down the OAIC.
  27%
 
I DON'T support shutting the OAIC.
  73%
TOTAL VOTES: 1422

Vote