Pre-installed malware detected on some Android smartphones

В бюджетных смартфонах на Android обнаружили старый вирус

Avast has been in contact with Google and says the tech giant has reached out to the firmware developers to encourage them to take care of the issue.

The news comes from Avast, which found an adware type of malware that simply loads ads in your browser.

"Malicious apps can, unfortunately, be installed on firmware level before they are shipped to customers, probably without the manufacturer's knowledge", said Nikolaos Chrysaidos, Head of Mobile Threat Intelligence and Security at Avast. The adware servers are still operating, and lots of users have complained about bad ads, the company notes.

The adware has been active for at least three years, and is hard to remove as it is installed on the firmware level and uses strong obfuscation. According to Avast, the countries that are affected by the malware are Russia, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Portugal, Venezuela, Greece, France, and Romania. Google has taken steps to mitigate the malicious capabilities of many app variants on several device models, using internally developed techniques.

The phones concerned belong to manufacturers such as ZTE, Archos, Prestige, and myPhone, and are in all cases low-cost terminals that are not Google-certified, as revealed by a report published by Avast. To make sure that there is some kind of protection in the future, Google Play Protect has been updated. Avast Software has released details about the "Cosiloon" malware on its blog, which has also been found on devices from Archos, Prestigio, and others.

According to the report, it is not clear how the adware got onto the devices.

The only times the malware won't download additional apps is when the device's language is set to Chinese, when the device's public IP address is also from a Chinese IP range, and when the number of locally installed apps is below three (indicating a test/scan environment). Some antivirus apps report the payloads, but the dropper will install them right back again and the dropper itself can't be removed, so the device will forever have a method allowing an unknown party to install any application they want on it.

This means the group is opportunistic and infects devices at random, as it finds a window during which it can poison their firmware. It's also working with providers and domain registrars to get the problematic servers closed down permanently. "Together, we can ensure a safer mobile ecosystem for Android users". "The app is completely passive, only visible to the user in the list of system applications under "settings.' We have seen the dropper with two different names, 'CrashService" and 'ImeMess, '" wrote Avast. If you haven't bought an incredibly cheap Android product without Google Play Services installed over the past few years, you can go about your day worry-free.

Avast says it can detect the payload and uninstall it, but it can't do anything about the dropper that's built into the system.

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