Security researchers have blown the whistle on an app that should arguably never have been published for Google’s one-billion-plus Android users on Google Play.
One million installs isn’t much to brag about by usual standards in an app store like Google Play. translating to a meagre 0.1 percent of Google’s overall Android users. But if the app was a game disguised as a phishing tool that harvested Facebook passwords, suddenly it does matter a bit more.
According to security firm ESET, Cowboy Adventure — an app that offered a real game — had one glaring problem that Google failed to pick up during its vetting process.
“he problem lies in the fact that when the app is launched, a fake Facebook login window is displayed to the user. If victims fell for the scam, their Facebook credentials would be sent to the attackers’ server,” the company said in a blog poston Thursday.
To Google’s credit, the app was taken down last week, according to ESET, and — thanks to Google's Verify Apps feature that checks installed apps for malicious behaviour — Android devices would have presented a pop-up message advising users that “Cowboy Adventure… is designed to trick you into entering personal data, such as your password”.
On the other hand, the malicious game had been available to install since at least April 16, meaning the credential-stealing app had at least three months to collect and use harvested Facebook credentials.
“The latest version of Cowboy Adventure at the time Google took it down from their official market last week was 1.3. This trojanized game had been available for download from Google Play since at least April 16, 2015, when the app was updated. We are not sure how many users had their Facebook credentials compromised,” said Lukáš Štefanko, a malware researcher at ESET.
ESET pointed out that Chinese-language users were also targeted by the scam, as discovered by security firm Trustlook.
Trustlook notes in its blog that some of its users had recently complained that their Facebook accounts had been abused due to their accounts sending invites to friends — mostly Chinese language users — to install the game.
“It will forge a Facebook login, and collect users’ Facebook username/passwords. By spamming the victims’ friends, it spread virally. Moreover, the phishing behaviour is committed selectively,” said Trustlook. By that, it mean that only an IP address from Asia could trigger the phishing page.
This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.