Check Point researchers have found a new variant of the HummingBad malware hidden in more than 20 apps on Google Play. The infected apps in this campaign were downloaded several million times by unsuspecting users. Check Point informed the Google Security team about the apps, which were then removed from Google Play.

This new variant, dubbed ‘HummingWhale,’ includes new, cutting edge techniques that allow it to perform ad fraud better than ever before.

1.1

 

HummingBad is a malware first discovered by Check Point on customer’s devices in February 2016. HummingBad stands out as an extremely sophisticated and well-developed malware, which employed a chain-attack tactic and a rootkit to gain full control over the infected device. Later, in July 2016, Check Point unraveled the entire infrastructure behind the malware’s activities and even managed to identify Yingmob, the group behind the campaign.

The malware was spread through third-party app stores and affected over 10 million victims, rooting thousands of devices each day and generating at least $300,000 per month. HummingBad was so widespread that in the first half of 2016 it reached fourth place in ‘the most prevalent malware globally’ list, and dominated the mobile threat landscape with over 72% of attacks.

It was probably only a matter of time before HummingBad evolved and made its way onto Google Play. HummingWhale malware first raised suspicions when Check Point researchers analyzed one of the apps. It registered several events on boot, such as TIME_TICK, SCREEN_OFF and INSTALL_REFERRER which was dubious in that context. Code similarity inspection revealed that this was only one app out of a series of apps with a common name structure – com.XXXXXXX.camera (e.g. com.bird.sky.whale.camera, com.color.rainbow.camera, com.fishing.when.orangecamera).

All of the apps were uploaded under the names of fake Chinese developers. In addition to the camera family, researchers were able to identify 16 additional, distinct package names related to the same malware, some of which were also found on Google Play.

However, the most suspicious property of these apps was a 1.3MB encrypted file called ‘assets/group.png’ – a suspiciously large file. Some later HummingBad samples disguised as an app called “file-explorer” had the exact same encrypted file with a similar size. The new samples of HummingWhale also match several other traits and identifiers seen in previous samples, such as registering to certain events and some identical strings in their code and certificates.

In addition, we identified several new HummingBad samples which operate as the previous version did and begun to promote the new HummingWhale version as part of their activity. This new malware was also heavily packed and contained its main payload in the ‘group.png’ file, which is, in fact, an apk, meaning they can be run as executables.

This .apk operates as a dropper, used to download and execute additional apps, similar to the tactics employed by previous versions of HummingBad. However, this dropper went much further. It uses an Android plugin called DroidPlugin, originally developed by Qihoo 360, to upload fraudulent apps on a virtual machine.

First, the Command and Control server (C&C) provides fake ads and apps to the installed malware, which presents them to the user. Once the user tries to close the ad, the app, which was already downloaded by the malware, is uploaded to the virtual machine and run as if it is a real device. This action generates the fake referrer id, which the malware uses to generate revenues for the perpetrators.

This method has several advantages:

  1. It allows the malware to install apps without gaining elevated permissions first.
  2. It disguises the malicious activity, which allows it to infiltrate Google Play.
  3. It allows the malware to let go of its embedded rootkit since it can achieve the same effect even without it.
  4. It can install an infinite number of fraudulent apps without overloading the device.

HummingWhale also conducted further malicious activities, like displaying illegitimate ads on a device, and hiding the original app after installation, a trait which was noticed by several users. As can be seen in the image below, HummingWhale also tries to raise its reputation in Google Play using fraudulent ratings and comments, similar to the Gooligan and CallJam malware before it.

This is a prime example of malware developers learning from each other, as tactics that were introduced by one of them are quickly adopted by others. The fraudulent ratings left by such malware is another reminder that users cannot rely on Google Play for protection, and must apply further, more advanced means of security.

IOCs

C&Cs:

https://apis.groupteamapi.com

“/(.+)?app.blinkingcamera.com(.+)?/”

Package names:

  • com.bird.sky.whalecamera – Whale Camera
  • com.op.blinkingcamera – Blinking Camera
  • com.fishing.when.orangecamera – Orange Camera
  • com.note.ocean.camera – Ocean camera
  • io.zhuozhuo.snail.android_snails -蜗牛手游加速器-专业的vpn,解决手游卡顿延迟问题
  • com.cm.hiporn – HiPorn
  • com.family.cleaner – Cleaner: Safe and Fast
  • com.wall.fast.cleaner – Fast Cleaner
  • com.blue.deep.cleaner – Deep Cleaner
  • com.color.rainbow.camera –             Rainbow Camera
  • com.ogteam.love.flashlight – com.qti.atfwd.core
  • com.wall.good.clevercamera – Clever Camera
  • com.well.hot.cleaner – Hot Cleaner
  • com.op.smart.albums – SmartAlbums
  • com.tree.tiny.cleaner – Tiny Cleaner
  • com.speed.top – Topspeed Test2
  • com.fish.when.orangecamera – Orange Camera
  • com.flappy.game.cat – FlappyCat
  • com.just.parrot.album – com.qti.atfwd.core
  • com.ogteam.elephanta.album – Elephant Album
  • gorer – File Explorer
  • com.with.swan.camera – Swan Camera
  • com.touch.smile.camera – Smile Camera
  • com.air.cra.wars – com.qti.atfwd.core
  • com.room.wow.camera – Wow Camera-Beauty,Collage,Edit
  • com.start.super.speedtest – com.qti.atfwd.core
  • com.best.shell.camera – Shell Camera
  • com.ogteam.birds.album – com.qti.atfwd.core
  • com.tec.file.master – File Master
  • com.bird.sky.whale.camera – Whale Camera
  • cm.com.hipornv2 – HiPorn
  • com.wind.coco.camera – Coco Camera
  • global.fm.filesexplorer – file explorer
  • com.filter.sweet.camera – Sweet Camera
  • com.op.blinking.camera – Blinking Camera
  • com.mag.art.camera – Art camera
  • com.cool.ice.camera – Ice Camera
  • com.group.hotcamera – Hot Camera
  • com.more.light.vpn – Light VPN-Fast, Safe,Free
  • com.win.paper.gcamera – Beauty Camera
  • com.bunny.h5game.parkour – Easter Rush
  • com.fun.happy.camera- Happy Camera
  • com.like.coral.album – com.qti.atfwd.core
  • com.use.clever.camera – Clever Camera
  • com.wall.good.clever.camera – Clever Camera

SHA 256:
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