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During the last years, the number of Android banking trojans has increased, and new techniques to perform banking fraud have been developed. Although most of the banking trojans are distributed via *ishing campaigns, TAs also use official app stores to deliver their malware using dropper applications, namely an application designed to download malware into the target device.
One of the main reasons behind this choice is the possibility of reaching a more significant number of potential victims and, thus, a greater likelihood of completing fraud. Furthermore, since these droppers hide behind utility apps and come from a trusted source, they can mislead even “experienced” users.
The application, discovered in October by the Cleafy TIR team on the Google Play Store, appears like a legitimate recovery tool with a relatively small amount of permissions and a small footprint.
The combination of these elements, plus the use of multiple evasion techniques, makes the application very difficult to detect with automatic sandboxes or machine learning methodology. It goes, then, undetected by antivirus solutions and Google Protects.
This explains why, even though an overview of this dropper was already described in the last article of Threat Fabric, we decided to publish this report and analyze in detail how this application ended up in the Play Store and attempted to commit bank fraud.
The application found on the Play Store belongs to the Brunhilda dropper service since it shares multiple behaviors with the same past related samples, such as:
The application code has changed compared to previous variants and a piece of interesting evidence is the use of multiple evasion techniques, used to stay undetectable and slow down the analysis. Some techniques are listed below:
Once the victim downloads and installs the application from the Google Play Store to complete the attack chain, the dropper displays to the user a persistent update request to download a new application (Figure 6) that represents the actual malware, namely the Android banking trojan belonging to the Vultur family.
Although in that way, the user has to accept the Android permission to download and install the application from a different source than the official Google Store, this technique allows TAs to not upload the malicious application directly to the official store, making the dropper application undetectable.
When the user installs the application requested in the fake update, a new popup appears to the user (Figure 8). Notably, the malware needs the “notorious” Accessibility Services to control the user’s device.
At this point, Vultur uses multiple techniques to try to remain unsuspected in the eyes of the user, in particular:
Furthermore, if an analyst tries to install Vultur directly on a device, to analyze it, the malware does not start, and it does not communicate with the C2 server. The malware must be installed and launched through the dropper application.
Using keylogging and screen recording capabilities, TAs can obtain all the information they need to carry out their fraudulent activities. During our investigations, we noticed that the usual modus operandi of Vultur’s TAs is to try to carry out bank fraud during the night hours.
This research aims to show how TAs are constantly improving their techniques to stay undetected using advanced evasion techniques such as steganography, file deletion, and code obfuscation. And at the same time, the use of official app stores to deliver banking trojans to reach a more significant number of potential victims is a new trend that is gaining strength.
According to our findings, we expect to see new sophisticated banking droppers campaigns on the official stores in the next months.