A new attack on android applications known as the BlackRock trojan has already targeted over 300 applications on the android operating system, including banking, social media, and dating applications. Any application with payment features, which is most nowadays, has been targeted and users credit card information has been compromised. How does this all work though, and what implications will it have for the future of the android operating system?
The Mechanics of BlackRock
The essential approach that BlackRock takes to get access to your information is it sends out a false Google Update and requests accessibility privileges. After it is granted these privileges it develops its own autonomy and no longer needs further interaction from the user to operate, it does this through granting itself further permissions afterwards.
Some abilities BlackRock has, are traditional of trojan attacks, and some are quite problematic. It can collect device information, it can perform overlay attacks, but even more concerning, it can prevent antivirus software and even prevent uninstalling, leading to a longer lifespan than most hacks and more damage being done to your device and more of your information being compromised.
The Network and History of BlackRock Malware
Information from the site ThreatFabric has concluded that BlackRock is based on banking malware known as Xerxes, which itself is a version of Lokibot malware, discovered in 2019. Lokibot is part of an underground network of rented malware which circulated in 2016 and 2017. What really caused it to be a ubiquitous problem is when the source code got leaked.
Android tried to get out in front of the older malware by pushing their newer devices which, with their new hardware, had a natural adaptation curve for implementing the attacks on the new systems. This, unfortunately, didn’t last long. In 2018, MysteryBot dropped, which was an update on the Xerxes system to work with new Android systems.
The ancestral history of BlackRock is inundated with Lokibot variants. Parasite was a brief problem, although after disappearing from the malware space, Xeres was the direct parent of BlackRock, with the former appearing in 2019 and now, here in 2020, we have BlackRock.
Top Apps That Have Been Threatened
Numerous applications have suffered the injection and compromise of BlackRock, but the most notable are:
- Google Play
- Wells Fargo
Many others have been targeted as well, leading to an entire suite of applications being at risk. Millions of users could have been affected and had their financial and contact information now in the hands of hackers, which could be numerous themselves seeing as the above mentioned malware network is vast and diverse.
Implications for Android
Android, being a more open operating system, runs the risk of more of these said attacks if they don’t take a new approach to how they monitor their application base. Two futures exist for android after this latest breach.
One, they stay with the same approach they have now and hope that they can rely on a numbers game, praying that the majority of their apps stay solid with their own individual protection protocols, and hoping the majority of their users stay safe.
The other is they radically change how they monitor their operating system, implementing much more rigorous analysis of their potential apps and making the approval process contain much more scrutiny in their security requirements.
Either way the future for android will remain risky if they simply ignore the growing underground network of malware. They desperately need to engage in research of this growing corner of the hacking world if they have any hope of maintaining a safe and secure user base.