By John Ikani
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has warned telecom consumers and the general public of a new Android malware that has been discovered.
Malware is a generic word used to describe a virus or software designed specially to “disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorised access to a computer system.”
According to a statement issued by Spokesman of the Commission, Ikechukwu Adinde, the malware, named ‘AbstractEmu’, can gain access to smartphones, take complete control of infected smartphones and silently modify device settings while simultaneously taking steps to evade detection.
AbstractEmu, the NCC said has been found to be distributed via Google Play Store and third-party stores such as the Amazon Appstore and the Samsung Galaxy Store, as well as other lesser-known marketplaces like Aptoide and APKPure.
It went on to note that this discovery was announced recently by the Nigerian Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT), the national agency established by the Federal Government to manage the risks of cyber threats in Nigeria, which also coordinates incident response and mitigation strategies to proactively prevent cyber-attacks against Nigeria.
The advisory stated that a total of 19 Android applications that posed as utility apps and system tools like password managers, money managers, app launchers, and data saving apps have been reported to contain the rooting functionality of the malware.
The apps are said to have been prominently distributed via third-party stores such as the Amazon Appstore and the Samsung Galaxy Store, as well as other lesser-known marketplaces like Aptoide and APKPure. The apps include All Passwords, Anti-ads Browser, Data Saver, Lite Launcher, My Phone, Night Light and Phone Plus, among others.
According to the report, rooting malware although rare is very dangerous. By using the rooting process to gain privileged access to the Android operating system, the threat actor can silently grant itself dangerous permissions or install additional malware – steps that would normally require user interaction. Elevated privileges also give the malware access to other apps’ sensitive data, something not possible under normal circumstances.
The ngCERT advisory also captured the consequences of making their devices susceptible to AbstractEmu attacks. Once installed, the attack chain is designed to leverage one of five exploits for older Android security flaws that would allow it to gain root permissions. It also takes over the device, installs additional malware, extracts sensitive data, and transmits to a remote attack-controlled server.
Additionally, the malware can modify the phone settings to give app the ability to reset the device password, or lock the device, through device admin; draw over other windows; install other packages; access accessibility services; ignore battery optimisation; monitor notifications; capture screenshots; record device screen; disable Google Play Protect; as well as modify permissions that grant access to contacts, call logs, Short Messaging Service (SMS), Geographic Positioning System (GPS), camera, and microphone.
The commission reiterated the advisory of ngCERT that users should be wary of installing unknown or unusual apps and look out for different behaviours as they use their phones.
It also advised users to reset phones to factory settings when there is suspicion of unusual behaviours.