Android malware infects 60 Google Play apps with 100 million downloads

A newly discovered Android malware is capable of collecting a range of sensitive data. File Picture: REUTERS/Issei Kato

A newly discovered Android malware is capable of collecting a range of sensitive data. File Picture: REUTERS/Issei Kato

Published Apr 17, 2023


Google Play has been infiltrated by a new Android malware called Goldoson, which has been discovered in 60 legitimate apps with a combined total of 100 million downloads.

The malicious malware component is integrated into a third-party library that the developers inadvertently incorporated into all 60 apps, reports BleepingComputer.

The Android malware, discovered by McAfee's research team, is capable of collecting a range of sensitive data, including information on the user’s installed apps, wif-fi and Bluetooth-connected devices, and GPS locations.

In addition, it can perform ad fraud by clicking ads in the background without the user's consent, according to the report.

When a user runs a Goldoson-containing app, the library registers the device and obtains its configuration from an obfuscated remote server.

The set-up specifies the data-stealing and ad-clicking functions Goldoson should do on the infected device and how frequently.

The report said that the data collection mechanism was commonly set to activate every two days, transmitting a list of installed apps, geographical position history, MAC addresses of devices connected via Bluetooth and wi-fi, and other information to the C2 server.

The amount of data collected was determined by the permissions granted to the infected app during installation as well as the Android version.

Although Android 11 and later versions were better protected against arbitrary data collection, researchers discovered that Goldoson had enough rights to acquire sensitive data in 10% of the apps even in newer versions of the OS, the report mentioned.

Ad income is generated by loading HTML code and injecting it into a customised, hidden WebView, and then using that to execute numerous URL visits.

There is no indication of this action on the victim's device.

In January, Google's Threat Analysis Group terminated thousands of accounts associated with a group known as Dragonbridge or Spamouflage Dragon that disseminated pro-Chinese disinformation on various platforms.

According to the tech giant, Dragonbridge gets new Google accounts from bulk account sellers, and at times they have even used accounts previously used by financially motivated actors repurposed for posting disinformation videos and blogs.