Mobile & Gadgets

Asian Android Flu Brings Unwanted Apps on Smartphones

Attackers publish legit applications which are swapped with malware after they get positive ratings


Third-party Android markets have always been the favorite means of malicious app dissemination, especially in regions like Asia, where users don’t have access to the official repository.

This is also the case with the latest campaign laid out by cyber-crooks to lure users into installing well-known applications on the genuine Android Market, but which have been tampered with in order to launch additional services along with the original app.

Shortly put, the original Android application downloaded from a third-party location contains “the real deal” as well as a Trojanized service (usually called “GoogleServicesFrameworkService”), which is launched as soon as the host application is started.

Rogue service calleld GoogleServicesFrameworkService started by the compromised app

Identified by Bitdefender as Android.Trojan.FakeUpdates.A, this piece of malware connects to a C&C server and fetches a list of links to different APKs. After that, it downloads each APK from the list and then displays displays a notification in the status bar area, reading  “您好,已经获取最新更新,请点击安装” (In order to have access to the latest updates, click Install). This approach confuses the user, as they have no idea where the message came from.

Routine that starts the malicious service 

This Trojan requires an extensive array of privileges upon installing, in order to make sure that it can take full control over the smartphone whenever necessary. Depending on the APKs to be downloaded and installed, the application may require up to 10 privileges prior to the installation and most of the users will accept it without any second thoughts, since they believe that what is to be installed is an update to one of the applications they already have installed.

Downloading the APKs from the third-party server

Android application posted on third-party Android Markets are nothing new; however, what is particularly important is the attackers’ modus operandi: they publish a totally legit application on the respective Market, let it live for a couple of days to get the positive ratings and gain users’ trust, and then change the APK with a Trojanized one in order to fulfill their malicious goals. Also, of great importance is that most of the repackaged applications we have analyzed have low detection rates, which poses a real danger even to smartphone users who run a mobile security solution.

The function that displays the fake update notifications

Android.Trojan.FakeUpdates.A poses an immediate threat to the smartphone user as it can download and install anything, from trial versions of software in pay-per-install campaigns to spyware and other Trojans.

Bitdefender Mobile Security in action

In order to protect your privacy and keep your device in the best shape, you are advised NOT to install applications that ask for more permissions that it would normally use. Also, installing a mobile security solution will help you mitigate this kind of attacks.

This article is based on the technical information provided courtesy of Vlad Ilie, Bitdefender Virus Researcher .

All product and company names mentioned herein are for identification purposes only and are the property of, and may be trademarks of, their respective owners.

About the author


Bogdan Botezatu is living his second childhood at Bitdefender as senior e-threat analyst. When he is not documenting sophisticated strains of malware or writing removal tools, he teaches extreme sports such as surfing the web without protection or rodeo with wild Trojan horses. He believes that most things in life can be beat with strong heuristics and that antimalware research is like working for a secret agency: you need to stay focused at all times, but you get all the glory when you catch the bad guys.

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  • Hiya, great info. Fool that I am, I have this Asian Bird Flu, is there a way to delete it. I’ve tried a format, factory test and installed the Jelly Bean, but I’m still getting the notifications. Very frustrating!