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Print 47 comment(s) - last by YashBudini.. on Mar 10 at 2:40 PM

Company will release special removal tool for affected users, is remotely killing apps

Google is reacting quickly to what is perhaps the largest mass infection of users of its Android OS, yet. Rather than keep quiet, Google quickly pulled the 58 malicious apps, which were repackaged versions of legitimate apps (containing extra malicious APKs designed to grab personal information, obtain root access, and install code remotely).

Now it's take even more strident measures to combat the attack, personally reaching out to affected users.  Google began executing its remote kill functionality on the malicious apps Saturday.

It also pushed out an update to affected users phones, which will remove the installed rootkit.  Google sent the following email [source] to the estimated 260,000 Android users:

Hello,

We recently discovered applications on Android Market that were designed to harm devices. These malicious applications (“malware”) have been removed from Android Market, and the corresponding developer accounts have been closed.

According to our records, you have downloaded one or more of these applications. This malware was designed to allow an unauthorized third-party to access your device without your knowledge. As far as we can determine, the only information obtained was device-specific (IMEI/IMSI, unique codes which are used to identify mobile devices, and the version of Android running on your device).

However, this malware could leave your device and personal information at risk, so we are pushing an Android Market security update to your device to remove this malware. Over the next few hours, you will receive a notification on your device that says “Android Market Security Tool March 2011” has been installed. You are not required to take any action from there, the update will automatically run. You may also receive notification(s) on your device that an application has been removed. Within 24 hours of receiving the update, you will receive a second email confirming its success.

To ensure this update is run quickly, please make sure that your device is turned on and has a strong network connection.

For more details, please visit the Android Market Help Center.

Regards,
The Android Market Team


The flaw that allowed the malware to gain root access without asking for permissions was actually fixed by Google with firmware update Android 2.2.1.  Unfortunately carriers have been extremely sluggish at rolling out updates for Android users, and this is the end result.

Google has repackaged the fix as an individual patch and given it to carriers and handset makers.  But it's up to carriers and their hardware partners to push it down to phone customers as the patch will have to be adjusted to individual hardware configurations.  

In other words Google's keeping busy killing the burglars in the house, but back door is still wide open.  At least it's doing something, though, and giving its customers the decency of communication.

Google is also taking steps to make sure similar malware doesn't reappear in the Android Marketplace.  While the company is vague on specifics, it writes:

We are adding a number of measures to help prevent additional malicious applications using similar exploits from being distributed through Android Market and are working with our partners to provide the fix for the underlying security issues.

According to professional hackers and security researchers, most phones and applications markets have the potential to be infiltrated by malware.  

For example, at Nicolas Seriot, a Swiss iPhone expert, has demoed [white paper] at the annual Black Hat conference an app called "SpyPhone", which showed off how easy it would be to sneak malware into the App Store.  It is unknown if this is being actively done, but Mr. Seriot's whitepaper offered obfuscation code that disguised disallowed strings, offering hackers a clear path to getting their malware into the App Store (the only other necessary steps would be a delayed activation of the malicious activity, and avoidance of using private APIs).


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RE: Googles done decently
By Tony Swash on 3/7/2011 4:19:05 PM , Rating: -1
quote:
Surely you know that Apple "installs stuff" on your computer, right? It's called automatic updates. It does them for iTunes, OS X, etc.

Apple just hasn't gotten around to implementing the feature in iOS yet.

And I'm sure you didn't mean to imply that installing a removal tool for rootkit malware was BAD thing, right?

Google and Apple are in much the same boat when it comes to malware apps. Some will sure slip through the cracks. But the difference with Google is that the company is more vocal and transparent about its security flaws, while Apple remains silent on these kinds of issues...


Fact alert!!!!

Look away now if facts offend.

Even if you have download updates automatically turned on in MacOSX you always have to give explicit permission for it to install.

No malware like the Android crap has appeared on iOS (except for jailbreakers)

Systems that check for malware in advance of distribution are never perfect but are always safer than systems that don't check for malware in advance of distribution.

Facts finished - you can look again now safe from reality intruding.


RE: Googles done decently
By JasonMick (blog) on 3/7/2011 5:10:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Fact alert!!!!

Look away now if facts offend.

Even if you have download updates automatically turned on in MacOSX you always have to give explicit permission for it to install.


I have an HTC EVO and it requires my permission to install updates.

quote:
No malware like the Android crap has appeared on iOS (except for jailbreakers)


I doubt that.

Lack of proof is not proof in and of itself that something doesn't exist.

Apple's screen eliminates *obvious* malware, but more subtle malware using string obfuscation, no internal APIs, no core system calls, and remote post-mortem activation would pass through scott-free. See white papers from recent Black Hat conventions, Tony.

The thing is, Apple eliminates dumb malware. The smart ones you'd never hear about.

quote:
Systems that check for malware in advance of distribution are never perfect but are always safer than systems that don't check for malware in advance of distribution.


Google checks its apps pre-approval, just not to the extent Apple tests them. It's misleading to suggest it doesn't screen, though, if that's what you're trying to say.


RE: Googles done decently
By Tony Swash on 3/7/11, Rating: -1
RE: Googles done decently
By Alexstarfire on 3/7/2011 11:06:44 PM , Rating: 2
Kinda have to agree with Tony on this one. Remote kill is one thing since several platforms seem to have that. I still think that is dumb btw, but that's something else all together. No company/person should be able to install something on my stuff remotely without my permission. It's like giving the government a backdoor into your phone. Sure, they could do good with it, but is that really the point? Moreover, backdoors almost always end up getting used for evil.

I wonder if they can do this on any phone with Android, even with rooted phones and such?


RE: Googles done decently
By themaster08 on 3/8/2011 3:06:15 AM , Rating: 2
I kinda agree too. That's probably one of the most rational and unbiased posts from Tony I've ever seen.

However, since this remote kill has been pushed without user acknowledgement or intervention, as you said, several platforms have this. This could have already have been done on any device, including those from Apple, Microsoft, HP, and so on, and we may not know it.

The only reason we know of it in this scenario is due to the severity of the issue, and Google's public response.


RE: Googles done decently
By W00dmann on 3/7/11, Rating: 0
RE: Googles done decently
By tayb on 3/7/2011 8:32:47 PM , Rating: 1
What? Was this seriously your response to that post?

1. I can't follow your logic at all. Your EVO requires your permission to install updates? Okay. Go on? How does that relate to these 260,000 people having updates install without permission and THEN having an email sent letting them know an update was just installed.

2. You doubt that? If you don't have proof then SHUT UP. You can't make claims that Apple and Google are in the same boat, offer no proof, and then claim that a lack of proof does not prove that something doesn't exist? I can't believe I just read that.

3. If Apple eliminates dumb malware but not the "smart malware" how does that make Google look? Also, since all of this "white paper" crap is supposedly possible why is it so difficult for you to come up with a single relevant example? Could it possibly be because reality doesn't support your baseless claims?

4. This whole post is ridiculous. You painted yourself into a corner with a ridiculous original post but now you are just making yourself look like an idiot by trying to claw your way out. Stop while you are ahead next time.


RE: Googles done decently
By Alexstarfire on 3/7/2011 11:14:00 PM , Rating: 2
Am I the only one that remembers all the "media player" apps on the iOS that took personal information from its users? I can go dig up the articles if someone would like me to, but surely I can't be the only one to remember that.


RE: Googles done decently
By Alexstarfire on 3/7/2011 11:24:30 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently I remembered wrong and that was for Android. Though, when searching for that information I did come across this, http://www.cultofmac.com/malware-claiming-to-be-io...

Recent? No, but it was at one point.


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