Fake Vertu App Infects Korean and Japanese Android Users

A new threat has surfaced targeting users in Korea and Japan, but this attack, unlike others making the news, is not one motivated by political or ideological dogma. Instead, this one is based purely on old-fashioned greed. Vertu phone owners or those looking for a localized Vertu theme in Korean or Japanese for an Android phone had better think twice before downloading something. McAfee Mobile Research has identified a new variant of Android/Smsilence distributed under the guise of a Vertu upgrade/theme that is targeting Japanese and Korean users.

Fake Vertu app in Japanese.

Fake Vertu app in Japanese. (Click on images to enlarge.)

On installation, Android/Smsilence.C attempts to display a loading screen, while in the background registering the device phone number with an external server [XXX.XX.24.134] by sending an HTTP post. The malware then registers an Internet filter on the local device so that any incoming messages are handled first by the Trojan and then forwarded to the same server. The loading screen eventually stops with the message in Japanese or Korean reporting that the service was unavailable and to please try again.

Threat Details 2

McAfee’s research into the control management system used by this threat has shown that multiple domains (pointing to the same server) were used in addition to multiple guises to spread the threat. Around 20 fake branded apps–from coffee to fast-food chains, including an antivirus product from Korea that was uploaded and revoked from Google Play–were used. Despite a lack of sophistication compared with other mobile botnets, Android/Smsilence was still able to infect between 50,000 to 60,000 mobile users, according to our analysis.

Fake Vertu app in Korean.

Fake Vertu app in Korean.

The new variant now extends to Japanese victims. Most other threats targeting  Japan this year have been minor variations of one-click fraud (also called scareware), which has been around in one form or another since 2004. Devices infected with Android/Smsilence.C are capable of sending back a lot more information, in addition to downloading additional spyware to the infected device.

Because carriers in Japan use the CMAIL protocol for text messaging, attempting to control and maintain a mobile botnet from outside of Japan is not easy (due to the security features implemented by Japanese carriers). We wonder if there was a local accomplice facilitating the spread or control of infected devices. This would also explain the function of a secondary package that is downloaded to an infected device only on demand by the botnet controller, and contains additional spyware functionality not limited to text messaging.

The most bizarre aspect of this new strain remains to be explained, and highlights a limitation in the antimalware research field. Regardless whether we analyze an Android Trojan or a complex threat like Stuxnet, given enough time we can reverse-engineer any piece of code into its basic building blocks. Nonetheless, there are sometimes aspects to a case in which no matter how much time is spent investigating, we have no idea what the malware authors were thinking. In this case we discovered a file inside the malware that changes the package hash; that’s an evasive technique dubbed server-side polymorphism, and attempts to avoid detections by antimalware vendors. But it was not the technique that was confusing, even though this is the first time we have seen this technique used outside of an Eastern European threat family. The chosen file, the key component in the evasion technique, was a picture of London Mayor Boris Johnson.

image files discovered in the package

The malware authors included an image of  London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Latest Yahoo Data Breach Restates Need for Basic Security

News broke today of a large data breach against Yahoo Voices, resulting in more than 400,000 username/password combinations being posted in clear text. The compromise involved a basic SQL-injection attack against an exposed Yahoo server (dbb1.ac.bf1.yahoo.com).  Similar to other recent events, the account data was reportedly stored in an unencrypted state.

We see this type of attack over and over. Most recently LinkedIn and eHarmony were in the news with similar issues. This Yahoo breach is just the latest in a series of similar attacks that occur in multiples every day.

The attack was launched by the D33DS Co., whose release included this:

“We hope that the parties responsible for managing the security of this subdomain will take this as a wake-up call, and not as a threat. There have been many security holes exploited in webservers belonging to Yahoo! Inc. that have caused far greater damage than our disclosure.”

D33DS is probably correct in that latter sentence. But are their methods and motivation ethical or legal? That’s a different story. Regardless, Yahoo’s overlooking basic countermeasures against basic attacks (such as SQL injection) cannot be excused.

This is not the first time that Yahoo has been compromised in this way. During the last five years, Yahoo Local Neighbors, Yahoo Kids, Yahoo Classifieds, and others have been successfully targeted.
Ironically, there is a blog on SQL-injection prevention on Yahoo Voices. It was posted in 2009.

What else is interesting about the latest breach?

More than just @yahoo.com usernames and accounts were exposed. If there was ever a time to heed warnings about password reuse, especially across public and high-traffic social systems, this is it. Yahoo may have been the focus of this attack, but data in the dump could be used to target specific users from AOL, Microsoft, Google, Comcast, SBC Global, and others.

Here is a breakdown of associated domains that appear in the D33Ds release:


Yahoo! Breech top 20 domains

Yahoo breach Top 20 domains

I’ll leave you with several McAfee resources for understanding SQL injection:


Fake-Alert Scam Targets Mac Users

One of the most prevalent families of recent Trojans is called fake alerts. These Trojans generate fake warning screens that look like they were generated by legitimate security or anti-malware software. The majority of malware within this family attempts to con users by convincing them that their systems are at risk and that they should purchase the full version of the software to clean and repair their systems. One reason these fake alert scams have been so prevalent recently is largely due to the success of these scams. The Trojans use ever more professional-looking alerts to convince more and more users that the software is legitimate. Many fake-alert products even use the names and logos of popular security software.

McAfee Labs recently analyzed one of these Trojans, MacDefender.

Some of my colleagues have authored a report to help computer users distinguish between legitimate security software and fake or rogue security products. The paper is still timely and well worth a read.

With the increasing popularity and market share of systems running Apple’s Mac OS, these devices have also become a larger target for malware. Fake alerts are not the only malware families that infect the Mac, however. Threat predictions show increasing trends in malware targeting OS X. Some other notable examples found in the wild include:


BlackHole RAT


Regardless of your computer platform, take the proper precautions, remain updated, and surf safely.