Researchers at FireEye have been monitoring a malicious adware campaign that has affected the devices of Android users in more than 20 countries.
The threat, dubbed by the security firm “Kemoge” based on the name of its command and control (C&C) domain aps.kemoge.net, is packaged with various popular Android apps, including browsers, calculators, games, device lockers and sharing tools.
These applications are uploaded to third-party app stores and promoted through in-app ads and download links posted on various websites. According to FireEye, the threat can also be installed automatically via aggressive advertising networks that can gain root privileges to the device.
Once installed on a smartphone, Kemoge collects information on the infected device and starts serving ads. The ads are displayed to victims regardless of their activities, even without any apps running.
While at this point Kemoge seems like just another piece of adware, FireEye has discovered that there’s more to it than simply displaying ads. The threat makes some changes to the system so that it’s automatically launched when the victim unlocks the screen or the network connectivity is changed.
Then, it looks for a ZIP file disguised as a harmless MP4 from which it extracts eight exploits designed to root phones. By using multiple root exploits, the malware can ensure that it’s capable of hacking a wide range of devices. Some of these exploits are publicly available as open source, while others have been obtained from a commercial tool dubbed “Root Master” (Root Dashi) that has been used in other similar campaigns.
Once it gains root privileges on the device, the threat uses another component to ensure persistence, after which it injects an APK into the system partition disguised as a legitimate system service.
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