Triout Android Spyware Framework Makes a Comeback, Abusing App with 50 Million Downloads

In
August 2018, Bitdefender researchers stumbled across an Android malware
framework, dubbed Triout,
which packed massive surveillance capabilities.

Bundled
with a legitimate application ripped from the official Google Play marketplace,
the spyware framework can hide its existence on the device, record phone calls,
log incoming text messages, record videos, take pictures, and even collect GPS
coordinates. All of this information is sent to a Command & Control server
managed by the threat actors, without triggering alarms from its victims.

The
previous version of the spyware framework was bundled within an application
that displayed adult content, but Bitdefender researchers have found a new
tainted app that disseminates the malware.

Using Privacy as Bait

The “com.psiphon3” package name is a popular
application in Google’s official Android app store that promises a means to bypass
censored or blocked websites by leveraging a series of proxies. The application
has over 50 million installs and over 1
million reviews
(mostly positive), meaning its popularity might have been
abused by threat actors to repackage it with the spyware framework.

Ironically,
while the original legitimate application is advertised as a privacy tool that
enables access to the open internet, when bundled with the Triout spyware
framework it serves the exact opposite purpose.

While
it’s not distributed using the official Google Play marketplace, but through
third party ones, the tampered application has the same malicious code as the version
previously analyzed. It also comes bundled with three adware components –
Google Ads, Inmobi Ads, Mopub Ads – to generate some revenue on the side for
threat actors.

The investigation

We
first spotted the new tampered application on October 11th 2018, while
it seems to have been active from May 2nd
2018 all through December 7th 2018
. During this time, the
malicious application was apparently scanned from 7 different devices, including
5 from the Republic of Korea and 2 from Germany
. While the number of
victims that we know of based on our telemetry is relatively small, it’s
difficult to estimate exactly how many there are on a global scale.

When
analyzing the sample (MD5:
7ed754a802f0b6a1740a99683173db73 Package Name: com.psiphon3 Signed with Debug
Certificate: SHA:

61ed377e85d386a8dfee6b864bd85b0bfaa5af81)
we found the same malicious code as in the previous iteration. The new infected
package packs the same functionalities as the previous version but bears the
name “psp.jsp.datamd”.

What’s
interesting about the new Triout sample is that the C&C (Command &
Control) server the threat actors use to smuggle the data and control infected
devices is now different. The new C&C IP address (“188.165.49.205”)
is still operational at the time of writing and seems to point to a French
website (“magicdeal.fr”) that displays deals and discounts for
various products.

It is
currently unknown whether the website is a decoy or a legitimate website that the
threat actors compromised to use as a C&C server.

Both
the legitimate app and the tampered version look and act the same in terms of
user interface and functionalities, meaning that attackers only focused on
adding the Triout spyware component without raising any suspicion from victims.

However,
the tampered version seems to have used the v91 version of the original
application when distributing the Triout spyware. The current version of the
legitimate app – at the time of writing – is v241.

Triout Android Spyware Framework Makes a Comeback, Abusing App with 50 Million Downloads

Fig. 1 – Malware vs.
Clean App

Triout Android Spyware Framework Makes a Comeback, Abusing App with 50 Million Downloads

Fig. 2 – Malware vs.
Clean App

Takeaways

The
proliferation of Android devices has renewed interest from threat actors in
developing malware and spyware frameworks. The ubiquity of these devices in our
daily lives, the level of information they can access, and the amount of
sensors they’re equipped with (e.g. camera, microphone, GPS, etc.) turn them
into the perfect spies if weaponized by malware.

While
the Triout Android spyware framework itself does not seem to have undergone
changes in terms of code or capabilities, the fact that new samples are
emerging and that threat actors are using extremely popular apps to bundled the
malware, may herald more incidents such as this in the near future.

It’s
also worth considering that that the low number of victims and infected
devices, coupled with the fact that it packs powerful spyware capabilities,
could indicate that Triout is mostly used in highly targeted espionage
campaigns aimed at a few individuals.

To
steer clear of these threats, it’s best to install apps only from official
marketplaces, always use a mobile
security solution
that can spot Android malware, and constantly keep
your Android operating system up to date with the latest security updates.

Note: This article is based on technical
information provided courtesy of Cristofor Ochinca – Security Researcher,
Bitdefender.



*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Bitdefender Labs authored by Liviu Arsene. Read the original post at: https://labs.bitdefender.com/2019/02/triout-android-spyware-framework-makes-a-comeback-abusing-app-with-50-million-downloads/