In Depth

Android devices hit by 'cutting edge' malware attack

New variant of HummingBad software from 2016 reportedly found in 20 apps on Google Play store

Android devices have been hit by a severe malware attack that may have been downloaded by "several million unsuspected victims".

According to Check Point Software Technologies, more than 20 apps on the Google Play store were found to contain the malicious software, believed to a be a variant of the "HummingBad" malware that affected around ten million Android users in 2016. 

Dubbed "HummingWhale", the new attack used "cutting edge techniques that allow it to perform ad fraud better than ever before", says the site, adding that contaminated apps used "fraudulent ratings" to raise their reputation on the store.

Apps were uploaded under the names of "fake Chinese developers" and contained a "suspiciously large" encrypted file, which was the same as those found in the old HummingBad software. Google has since removed the contaminated apps, Check Points adds. 

HummingWhale generated revenue by "displaying fraudulent ads" which, once opened, installed apps without the user's permission, says ArsTechnica. These apps would then "run in a virtual machine" to "generate referral revenues".

While last year's HummingBad malware was not a "catastrophic attack", it did pose a "higher risk" for devices running older software versions, says The Guardian. It could open an access passage into the device that allowed user data to be sold on the "black market". 

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