Pokémon Go guide app with half a million downloads hacks Android devices

The app was found on Google Play and was not the first, researchers from Kaspersky Lab said

Security researchers have found a malicious application on Google Play that had over 500,000 downloads and was designed to gain complete control over Android devices.

The application masqueraded as a guide for the popular Pokémon Go game and used multiple layers of obfuscation to bypass Google Play's malware detection mechanisms, researchers from Kaspersky Lab said in a blog post.

The app contains a malicious module that doesn't execute immediately. Instead, the app waits for another application to be installed or uninstalled in order to determine if it's running on a real device or in an emulated environment, like the ones used to detect malware.

Once the app determines that it runs on a real device, it waits a further two hours before executing the malicious module, which then connects to a remote server and sends data about the device. The server can instruct the module to download exploits for local privilege escalation vulnerabilities that were discovered in Android between 2012 and 2015.

These are known as root exploits because they grant access to the highest privileged account on Android -- the root account. In other words, successful exploitation will lead to a full compromise of the device.

Google has released patches for all of these vulnerabilities, but because of the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, there are likely many devices out there that haven't received all the updates.

This doesn't mean that the 500,000 downloads represent the number of compromised devices. Android has local protection features like Verify Apps and SafetyNet that are specifically designed to detect and block known root exploits.

Kaspersky identified over 6,000 successful infections, primarily in Russia, India and Indonesia. "However, since the app is oriented towards English-speaking users, people in such geographies, and more, are also likely to have been hit," the Kaspersky researchers said.

The malicious “Guide for Pokémon Go” app was not the only app in the Google Play store that contained this Trojan module. Kaspersky found other such apps that were in the store at different times since December 2015. Most of the older apps had around 10,000 downloads, but one called "Digital Clock" had more than 100,000 downloads.

Google has done a pretty good job at keeping malware out of its official app store over the past few years, but as this incident shows, malicious applications can still slip through from time to time.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags PokemonsecurityAndroidhacking

More about GoogleKaspersky

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place