Fake antivirus scanners are now migrating across to mobile handsets warn security researchers
Fake antivirus scareware appears on a regular basis, but now researchers are warning that they are encountering an intriguing variant that could show that scammers are starting to target mobile platforms.
A rogue antivirus masquerading as a Kaspersky Lab antivirus scanner has been spotted on mobile devices, Dinesh Venkatesan, an anti-malware researcher, posted on the CA Security Advisor Research Blog on 27 April. The current scam is designed to trick Russian-speaking users into paying for bogus mobile protection.
The “exponential growth” of the smartphone market means these kinds of threats will be “growing proportionately,” Venkatesan wrote.
The fake antivirus appears to be spreading using social engineering tactics, according to Venkatesan. Once launched on the device, it presented a “friendly UI” and asks the user whether it should scan the phone for viruses. After running the scan, it informs the user that two threats have been detected.
“The sample is supposedly spread by some social engineering tricks where users would have been provided with support numbers/email id to contact to resolve those error codes,” Venkatesan said.
Contacting that support number or address is presumably when the users are tricked into paying for an upgrade to remove the alleged infection. Venkatesan didn’t have that information when analysing the malware sample and couldn’t complete the analysis to determine how the malware authors were monetising the scam.
The app is not very sophisticated at the moment, suggesting it was an early stage experiment for the app developer. On a mobile platform, SMS-based micro payments seem to be the most logical way to trick money out of the victims. The rogue scanner has hardcoded the malware names as it always “found” the same “Trojan moby” and “RebBrowser” in two locations that are clearly from the Windows file system. While it is “scanning” the files, it played an audio file in the background of a crashing sound just before displaying the error message.
Users have become the primary target for attackers with clever social engineering tricks designed to trick them into clicking links and running software. “The adversary targets the user because they know that regardless of all the patches applied to technology, one cannot apply a patch to Layer 8 – the human brain,” Anup Ghosh, chief research scientist at Invincea, told eWEEK.
Mobile users need to be on the alert against such social engineering tricks and they should also be using a legitimate mobile security product, Venkatesan said. Users should “exercise basic security principles” while surfing and be sceptical of free downloads, according to Venkatesan. Instead of downloading pirated or free versions of software from unofficial app markets, users should stick with official security products available on the Android Market.
Malware developers are increasingly developing threats that are localised for a specific region, Korean security vendor AhnLab warned in a recent report. Authors are frequently translating the fake antivirus program’s graphical user interface to the language the operating system is running and demand payment in the local currency to increase the scareware’s success rate, the report found.