Home Mobile Urgent Microsoft warning for Android users over dangerous Google Play Store apps

Urgent Microsoft warning for Android users over dangerous Google Play Store apps

A number of malicious apps have been detected on the Google Play Store, with Microsoft’s threat intelligence team urgently warning Android users they are at risk.

The compromised apps, which share a security weakness, have been cumulatively downloaded more than four billion times.

The security flaw, which the tech giant calls “dirty stream”, can be exploited by malicious actors, allowing them to target the way apps communicate with each other such as when files and data are sent between apps.

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This means malicious apps can send data disguised under filenames trusted by the compromised Android apps and, once accepted by the “share target”, a trusted channel between the two apps is formed through which sensitive data can then travel.

“Since the rogue app controls the name as well as the content of the file, by blindly trusting this input a share target may overwrite critical files in its private data space,” Microsoft threat intelligence team officer Dimitrios Valsamaras said on Wednesday.

“The potential impact varies.”

Valsamaras added some breaches can “lead to serious consequences”.

The malicious app can overwrite settings “causing the vulnerable app to communicate with an attacker-controlled server” which can expose an Android user’s sensitive information.

Valsamaras called the “worst-case scenario” a “not-so-uncommon” possibility — the target app can be manipulated into opening a channel that taps into its highly-protected libraries.

“In this case, the malicious application can overwrite a native library with malicious code,” Valsamaras said.

These breaches can provide the hacker with full control over an app’s behaviour, and the impact can extend beyond the user’s mobile phone device.

This is what happened to one of the affected apps, Xiaomi Inc. — a file management app that has been installed more than a billion times.

Microsoft has since warned the Xiaomi Inc. app developer, as well as the developers of other compromised apps.

The developer confirmed the issue has now been fixed in the latest update.

But Microsoft believes the vulnerability may be present in a number of other apps on the Google Play Store that it has not yet detected.

Users have been advised to update their phones and their apps, and Microsoft has released technical advice for developers to protect their apps against the “dirty stream” vulnerability.

 

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