Mobile Security Weekly: Xsser Still a Threat, Apple Ups Touch ID Security, Chinese Manufacturer Preinstalls Malware

This week’s edition is a mixture of what could be describe as the old and the new. The Xsser mRAT is hitting the news and just like when it was discovered, it’s bad news for users. We also see the two very different sides of manufacturers commitment to security. On one hand, Apple is (again) trying to improve their Touch ID and on the other, Coolpad, a major Chinese manufacturer is spreading malware right out of the box.

Another issue that we’ve been thinking about this week is the aftermath of the Sony hack. Regardless of the involvement of mobile devices in this specific attack – it poses many questions regarding the future of enterprise security. Before Sony, we’d never seen an attack of this scale, allegedly, being conducted by a nation-state. If enterprises are now legitimate targets for nation-backed cyber “warriors” – enterprise security will need to be bumped up several places on your 2015 New Year’s resolutions.

Xsser mRAT remains a threat to iOS and Android Users

It’s been several months since Lacoon discovered the Xsser mRAT being used against both iOS and Android users in Hong Kong. Despite the massive news coverage it received, this advanced surveillance mRAT is still successfully targeting users throughout Asia.

Over the past few months, Xsser has been spotted in several Asian countries. It must be said that is by no means an epidemic – just as Xsser is no usual strain of malware, the attackers are highly skilled and seem to have specific targets.

Why is this Significant?

Even though this attack received massive hype and got stripped to bits by every tech blog our there – it’s still being used against mobile users. This just goes to show that in some cases, even knowing about a threat won’t help you. That being said, seeing as we are the ones that discovered it, we’re pretty sure you’d be safe from Xsser with us.

Apple Looks at Way to Up Security with Touch ID

Since its introduction on the iPhone 5S, Apple’s touch ID has had its fair share of problems. Despite several updates and modifications, it’s still relatively simple to hack and doesn’t yet provide true biometric safety to a device.

Apple isn’t giving up and is looking at different ways to use its Touch ID sensor to increase security in its devices. One potential direction is making the touch sequence more complicated, either by using lengthier finger movements or even combinations of gestures.

Why is this Significant?

With biometrics set to become a bigger part of our day-to-day lives in the near future, it’s good to see that Apple is looking at ways to improve it. Till now, hackers have been able to beat every improvement that’s been brought to the table – so it’s up to Apple to provide them with a new, hopefully harder, challenge.

Chinese Android Devices are Being Sold with Pre-Installed Malware

Smartphones and tablets from Coolpad, a major Chinese manufacturer, come with a built-in security flaw that was deliberately introduced and enables hackers to obtain full control of the device.

The “CoolReaper” backdoor was found in the software that powers at least 24 models made by Coolpad, which is now the world’s sixth-biggest smartphone producer. CoolReaper allows hackers or even Coolpad itself to download and install any software onto the phones without the user’s permission.

The operator can simply uninstall or disable all security applications in user devices, install additional malware, extract data and inject content into the users device via multiple vectors. It’s too early to blame Coolpad, seeing as it is possible that hackers merely gained access to the devices via Coolpad’s systems.

Why is this Significant?

At the moment, the known impact of CoolReaper is limited to China and Taiwan (potentially affecting 10m users), but Coolpad’s position in the market and global expansion plans mean this backdoor presents a threat to Android users all over the world. With cheaper Chinese devices becoming increasingly popular worldwide, this issues may pose questions regarding the gains of choosing a budget device.