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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 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.


"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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