IT threat evolution Q1 2020. Statistics – 10 minute mail

These statistics are based on detection verdicts for Kaspersky products received from users who consented to providing statistical data.

Quarterly figures

According to Kaspersky Security Network,

  • Kaspersky solutions blocked 726,536,269 attacks launched from online resources in 203 countries across the globe.
  • A total of 442,039,230 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by Web Anti-Virus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware designed to steal money via online access to bank accounts were logged on the computers of 249,748 unique users.
  • Ransomware attacks were defeated on the computers of 178,922 unique users.
  • Our File Anti-Virus detected 164,653,290 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky products for mobile devices detected:
    • 1,152,662 malicious installation packages
    • 42,115 installation packages for mobile banking trojans
    • 4339 installation packages for mobile ransomware trojans

Mobile threats

Quarter events

Q1 2020 will be remembered primarily for the coronavirus pandemic and cybercriminals’ exploitation of the topic. In particular, the creators of a new modification of the Ginp banking trojan renamed their malware Coronavirus Finder and then began offering it for €0.75 disguised as an app supposedly capable of detecting nearby people infected with COVID-19. Thus, the cybercriminals tried not only to scam users by exploiting hot topics, but to gain access to their bank card details. And, because the trojan remains on the device after stealing this data, the cybercriminals could intercept text messages containing two-factor authorization codes and use the stolen data without the victim’s knowledge.

Another interesting find this quarter was Cookiethief, a trojan designed to steal cookies from mobile browsers and the Facebook app. In the event of a successful attack, the malware provided its handler with access to the victim’s account, including the ability to perform various actions in their name, such as liking, reposting, etc. To prevent the service from spotting any abnormal activity in the hijacked profile, the trojan contains a proxy module through which the attackers issue commands.

The third piece of malware that caught our attention this reporting quarter was trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Shopper.a. It is designed to help cybercriminals to leave fake reviews and drive up ratings on Google Play. The attackers’ goals here are obvious: to increase the changes of their apps getting published and recommended, and to lull the vigilance of potential victims. Note that to rate apps and write reviews, the trojan uses Accessibility Services to gain full control over the other app: in this case, the official Google Play client.

Mobile threat statistics

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky’s mobile products and technologies detected 1,152,662 malicious installation packages, or 171,669 more than in the previous quarter.

Number of malicious installation packages detected, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Starting in Q2 2019, we have seen a steady rise in the number of mobile threats detected. Although it is too early to sound the alarm (2019 saw the lowest number of new threats in recent years), the trend is concerning.

Distribution of detected mobile apps by type

Distribution of newly detected mobile programs by type, Q1 2020 and Q4 2019 (download)

Of all the threats detected in Q1, half were unwanted adware apps (49.9%), their share having increased by 19 p.p. compared to the previous quarter. Most often, we detected members of the HiddenAd and Ewind families, with a combined slice of 40% of all detected adware threats, as well as the FakeAdBlocker family (12%).

Potentially unwanted RiskTool apps (28.24%) took second place; the share of this type of threat remained almost unchanged. The Smsreg (49% of all detected threats of this class), Agent (17%) and Dnotua (11%) families were the biggest contributors. Note that in Q1, the number of detected members of the Smsreg family increased by more than 50 percent.

In third place were Trojan-Dropper-type threats (9.72%). Although their share decreased by 7.63 p.p. against the previous quarter, droppers remain one of the most common classes of mobile threats. Ingopack emerged as Q1’s leading family with a massive 71% of all Trojan-Dropper threats, followed by Waponor (12%) and Hqwar (8%) far behind.

It is worth noting that mobile droppers are most often used for installing financial malware, although some financial threats can spread without their help. The share of these self-sufficient threats is quite substantial: in particular, the share of Trojan-Banker in Q1 increased by 2.1 p.p. to 3.65%.

Top 20 mobile malware programs

Note that this malware rankings do not include potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as RiskTool or adware.

Verdict %*
1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 44.89
2 Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh 9.09
3 DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML 7.08
4 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.d 4.52
5 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch 2.73
6 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a 2.45
7 Trojan.AndroidOS.Handda.san 2.31
8 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.z 2.30
9 Trojan.AndroidOS.Necro.a 2.19
10 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.b 1.94
11 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.gen 1.82
12 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Helper.l 1.50
13 Exploit.AndroidOS.Lotoor.be 1.46
14 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Lezok.p 1.46
15 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e 1.43
16 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Penguin.e 1.42
17 Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Prizmes.a 1.39
18 Trojan.AndroidOS.Dvmap.a 1.24
19 Trojan.AndroidOS.Agent.rt 1.21
20 Trojan.AndroidOS.Vdloader.a 1.18

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products that were attacked.

First place in our Top 20 as ever went to DangerousObject.Multi.Generic (44.89%), the verdict we use for malware detected using cloud technology. They are triggered when the antivirus databases still lack the data for detecting a malicious program, but the Kaspersky Security Network cloud already contains information about the object. This is basically how the latest malware is detected.

Second and third places were claimed by Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh (9.09%) and DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML (7,08%) respectively. These verdicts are assigned to files that are recognized as malicious by our machine-learning systems.

In fourth (Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.d, 4.52%) and tenth (Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.b, 1.94%) places are members of the Necro family, whose main task is to download and install modules from cybercriminal servers. Eighth-placed Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.z (2.30%) acts in a similar way, extracting from itself only those modules that it needs. As for Trojan.AndroidOS.Necro.a, which took ninth place (2.19%), cybercriminals assigned it a different task: the trojan follows advertising links and clicks banner ads in the victim’s name.

Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch (2.73%) claimed fifth spot. As soon as it runs, the malware hides its icon on the list of apps and continues to operate in the background. The trojan’s payload can be other trojan programs or adware apps.

Sixth place went to Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a (2.45%), which is what Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro usually delivers. Helper.a is tasked with downloading arbitrary code from the cybercriminals’ server and running it.

The verdict Trojan.AndroidOS.Handda.san (2.31%) in seventh place is a group of diverse trojans that hide their icons, gain Device Admin rights on the device, and use packers to evade detection.

Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e (1.43%) and Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Penguin.e (1.42%) warrant a special mention. The former is the only banking trojan in the top 20 this past quarter. The Rotexy family is all of six years old, and its members have the functionality to steal bank card details and intercept two-factor payment authorization messages. In turn, the first member of the Penguin dropper family was only detected last July and had gained significant popularity by Q1 2020.

Geography of mobile threats

 

Map of infection attempts by mobile malware, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile threats

Country* %**
1 Iran 39.56
2 Algeria 21.44
3 Bangladesh 18.58
4 Nigeria 15.58
5 Lebanon 15.28
6 Tunisia 14.94
7 Pakistan 13.99
8 Kuwait 13.91
9 Indonesia 13.81
10 Cuba 13.62

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile products (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products in the country.

In Q1 2020, the leader by share of attacked users was Iran (39.56%). Inhabitants of this country most frequently encountered adware apps from the Notifyer family, as well as Telegram clone apps. In second place was Algeria (21.44%), where adware apps were also distributed, but this time it was the HiddenAd and FakeAdBlocker families. Third place was taken by Bangladesh (18.58%), where half of the top 10 mobile threats consisted of adware in the HiddenAd family.

Mobile banking trojans

During the reporting period, we detected 42,115 installation packages of mobile banking trojans. This is the highest value in the past 18 months, and more than 2.5 times higher than in Q4 2019. The largest contributions to the statistics came from the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent (42.79% of all installation packages detected), Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Wroba (16.61%), and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng (13.66%) families.

Number of installation packages of mobile banking trojans detected by Kaspersky, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 mobile banking trojans

  Verdict %*
1 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e 13.11
2 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q 10.25
3 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.snt 7.64
4 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.ce 6.31
5 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.eq 5.70
6 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Anubis.san 4.68
7 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.ep 3.65
8 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.a 3.50
9 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.ar 3.00
10 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.cf 2.70

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products who were attacked by banking threats.

First and second places in our top 10 were claimed by trojans targeted at Russian-speaking mobile users: Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Rotexy.e (13.11%) and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.q (10.25%).

Third, fourth, eighth, and ninth positions in the top 10 mobile banking threats went to members of the Asacub family. The cybercriminals behind this trojan stopped creating new samples, but its distribution channels were still active in Q1.

Geography of mobile banking threats, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile banking trojans

Country* %**
1 Japan 0.57
2 Spain 0.48
3 Italy 0.26
4 Bolivia 0.18
5 Russia 0.17
6 Turkey 0.13
7 Tajikistan 0.13
8 Brazil 0.11
9 Cuba 0.11
10 China 0.10

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile products (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked by mobile banking trojans as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products in the country.

In Q1 2020, Japan (0.57%) had the largest share of users attacked by mobile bankers; the vast majority of cases involved Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.eq.

In second place came Spain (0.48%), where in more than half of all cases, we detected malware from the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Cebruser family, and another quarter of detections were members of the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Ginp family.

Third place belonged to Italy (0.26%), where, as in Spain, the Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Cebruser family was the most widespread with almost two-thirds of detections.

It is worth saying a bit more about the Cebruser family. Its creators were among the first to exploit the coronavirus topic to spread the malware.

When it runs, the trojan immediately gets down to business: it requests access to Accessibility Services to obtain Device Admin permissions, and then tries to get hold of card details.

The malware is distributed under the Malware-as-a-Service model; its set of functions is standard for such threats, but with one interesting detail — the use of a step-counter for activation so as to bypass dynamic analysis tools (sandbox). Cebruser targets the mobile apps of banks in various countries and popular non-financial apps; its main weapons are phishing windows and interception of two-factor authorization. In addition, the malware can block the screen using a ransomware tool and intercept keystrokes on the virtual keyboard.

Mobile ransomware trojans

In Q2 2020, we detected 4,339 installation packages of mobile trojan ransomware, 1,067 fewer than in the previous quarter.

Number of installation packages of mobile ransomware trojans detected by Kaspersky, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 mobile ransomware trojans

Verdict %*
1 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.aj 17.08
2 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Congur.e 12.70
3 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.as 11.41
4 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Rkor.k 9.88
5 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.as 7.32
6 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Small.o 4.79
7 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.aj 3.62
8 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Svpeng.ah 3.55
9 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Congur.e 3.32
10 Trojan-Ransom.AndroidOS.Fusob.h 3.17

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products who were attacked by ransomware trojans.

Over the past few quarters, the number of ransomware trojans detected has been gradually decreasing; all the same, we continue to detect quite a few infection attempts by this class of threats. The main contributors to the statistics were the Svpeng, Congur, and Small ransomware families.

Geography of mobile ransomware trojans, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware trojans:

Country* %**
1 USA 0.26
2 Kazakhstan 0.25
3 Iran 0.16
4 China 0.09
5 Saudi Arabia 0.08
6 Italy 0.03
7 Mexico 0.03
8 Canada 0.03
9 Indonesia 0.03
10 Switzerland 0.03

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky mobile products (under 10,000).
** Unique users attacked by mobile ransomware trojans as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile products in the country.

The leaders by number of users attacked by mobile ransomware trojans are Syria (0.28%), the United States (0.26%) and Kazakhstan (0.25%)

Attacks on Apple macOS

In Q1 2020, we detected not only new versions of common threats, but one new backdoor family, whose first member was Backdoor.OSX.Capip.a. The malware’s operating principle is simple: it calls the C&C for a shell script, which it then downloads and executes.

Top 20 threats to macOS

Verdict %*
1 Trojan-Downloader.OSX.Shlayer.a 19.27
2 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.j 10.34
3 AdWare.OSX.Cimpli.k 6.69
4 AdWare.OSX.Ketin.h 6.27
5 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.aa 5.75
6 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.o 5.74
7 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.x 5.18
8 AdWare.OSX.Spc.a 4.56
9 AdWare.OSX.Cimpli.f 4.25
10 AdWare.OSX.Bnodlero.t 4.08
11 AdWare.OSX.Bnodlero.x 3.74
12 Hoax.OSX.SuperClean.gen 3.71
13 AdWare.OSX.Cimpli.h 3.37
14 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.v 3.30
15 AdWare.OSX.Amc.c 2.98
16 AdWare.OSX.MacSearch.d 2.85
17 RiskTool.OSX.Spigot.a 2.84
18 AdWare.OSX.Pirrit.s 2.80
19 AdWare.OSX.Ketin.d 2.76
20 AdWare.OSX.Bnodlero.aq 2.70

* Unique users attacked by this malware as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky security solutions for macOS who were attacked

The top 20 threats for macOS did not undergo any major changes in Q1 2020. The adware trojan Shlayer.a (19.27%) still tops the leaderboard, followed by objects that Shlayer itself loads into the infected system, in particular, numerous adware apps from the Pirrit family.

Interestingly, the unwanted program Hoax.OSX.SuperClean.gen landed in 12th place on the list. Like other Hoax-type programs, it is distributed under the guise of a system cleanup app, and immediately after installation, scares the user with problems purportedly found in the system, such as gigabytes of trash on the hard drive.

Threat geography

Country* %**
1 Spain 7.14
2 France 6.94
3 Italy 5.94
4 Canada 5.58
5 USA 5.49
6 Russia 5.10
7 India 4.88
8 Mexico 4.78
9 Brazil 4.65
10 Belgium 4.65

* Excluded from the rankings are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky security solutions for macOS (under 5,000)
** Unique users who encountered macOS threats as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky security solutions for macOS in the country.

The leading countries, as in previous quarters, were Spain (7.14%), France (6.94%) and Italy (5.94%). The main contributors to the number of detections in these countries were the familiar Shlayer trojan and adware apps from the Pirrit family.

IoT attacks

IoT threat statistics

In Q1 2020, the share of IP addresses from which attempts were made to attack Kaspersky telnet traps increased significantly. Their share amounted to 81.1% of all IP addresses from which attacks were carried out, while SSH traps accounted for slightly less than 19%.

Distribution of attacked services by number of unique IP addresses of devices that carried out attacks, Q1 2020

It was a similar situation with control sessions: attackers often controlled infected traps via telnet.

Distribution of cybercriminal working sessions with Kaspersky traps, Q1 2020

Telnet-based attacks

 

Geography of device IP addresses where attacks at Kaspersky telnet traps originated, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by location of devices from which attacks were carried out on Kaspersky telnet traps.

Country* %
China 13.04
Egypt 11.65
Brazil 11.33
Vietnam 7.38
Taiwan 6.18
Russia 4.38
Iran 3.96
India 3.14
Turkey 3.00
USA 2.57

 
For several quarters in a row, the leading country by number of attacking bots has been China: in Q1 2020 its share stood at 13.04%. As before, it is followed by Egypt (11.65%) and Brazil (11.33%).

SSH-based attacks

 

Geography of device IP addresses where attacks at Kaspersky SSH traps originated, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by location of devices from which attacks were made on Kaspersky SSH traps.

Country* %
China 14.87
Vietnam 11.58
USA 7.03
Egypt 6.82
Brazil 5.79
Russia 4.66
India 4.16
Germany 3.64
Thailand 3.44
France 2.83

In Q1 2020, China (14.87%), Vietnam (11.58%) and the US (7.03%) made up the top three countries by number of unique IPs from which attacks on SSH traps originated.

Threats loaded into honeypots

Verdict %*
Trojan-Downloader.Linux.NyaDrop.b 64.35
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.b 16.75
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.ba 6.47
Backdoor.Linux.Gafgyt.a 4.36
Backdoor.Linux.Gafgyt.bj 1.30
Trojan-Downloader.Shell.Agent.p 0.68
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.c 0.64
Backdoor.Linux.Hajime.b 0.46
Backdoor.Linux.Mirai.h 0.40
Backdoor.Linux.Gafgyt.av 0.35

* Share of malware type in the total amount of malware downloaded to IoT devices following a successful attack.

In Q1 2020, attackers most often downloaded the minimalistic trojan loader NyaDrop (64.35%), whose executable file does not exceed 500 KB. Threats from the Mirai family traditionally dominated: its members claimed four places in our top 10. These malicious programs will continue to rule the world of IoT threats for a long time to come, at least until the appearance of a more advanced (and publicly available) DDoS bot.

Financial threats

Financial threat statistics

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky solutions blocked attempts to launch one or several types of malware designed to steal money from bank accounts on the computers of 249,748 users.

Number of unique users attacked by financial malware, Q1 2020 (download)

Attack geography

To assess and compare the risk of being infected by banking trojans and ATM/POS malware in various countries, for each country we calculated the share of users of Kaspersky products that faced this threat during the reporting period out of all users of our products in that country.

Geography of banking malware attacks, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of attacked users

Country* %**
1 Uzbekistan 10.5
2 Tajikistan 6.9
3 Turkmenistan 5.5
4 Afghanistan 5.1
5 Yemen 3.1
6 Kazakhstan 3.0
7 Guatemala 2.8
8 Syria 2.4
9 Sudan 2.1
10 Kyrgyzstan 2.1

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky product users (under 10,000).
** Unique users whose computers were targeted by financial malware as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Top 10 banking malware families

Name Verdicts %*
1 Emotet Backdoor.Win32.Emotet 21.3
2 Zbot Trojan.Win32.Zbot 20.8
3 CliptoShuffler Trojan-Banker.Win32.CliptoShuffler 17.2
4 RTM Trojan-Banker.Win32.RTM 12.3
5 Nimnul Virus.Win32.Nimnul 3.6
6 Trickster Trojan.Win32.Trickster 3.6
7 Neurevt Trojan.Win32.Neurevt 3.3
8 SpyEye Trojan-Spy.Win32.SpyEye 2.3
9 Danabot Trojan-Banker.Win32.Danabot 2.0
10 Nymaim Trojan.Win32.Nymaim 1.9

** Unique users attacked by this malware family as a percentage of all users attacked by financial malware.

Ransomware programs

Quarterly highlights

Ransomware attacks on organizations, as well as on city and municipal networks, did not ease off. Given how lucrative they are for cybercriminals, there is no reason why this trend of several years should cease.

More and more ransomware is starting to supplement encryption with data theft. To date, this tactic has been adopted by distributors of ransomware families, including Maze, REvil/Sodinokibi, DoppelPaymer and JSWorm/Nemty/Nefilim. If the victim refuses to pay the ransom for decryption (because, say, the data was recovered from a backup copy), the attackers threaten to put the stolen confidential information in the public domain. Such threats are sometimes empty, but not always: the authors of several ransomware programs have set up websites that do indeed publish the data of victim organizations.

Number of new modifications

In Q1 2020, we detected five new ransomware families and 5,225 new modifications of these malware programs.

Number of new ransomware modifications detected, Q1 2019 – Q1 2020 (download)

Number of users attacked by ransomware trojans

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky products and technologies protected 178,922 users from ransomware attacks.

Number of unique users attacked by ransomware trojans, Q1 2020 (download)

Attack geography

 

Geography of attacks by ransomware trojans, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries attacked by ransomware trojans

Country* %**
1 Bangladesh 6.64
2 Uzbekistan 1.98
3 Mozambique 1.77
4 Ethiopia 1.67
5 Nepal 1.34
6 Afghanistan 1.31
7 Egypt 1.21
8 Ghana 0.83
9 Azerbaijan 0.81
10 Serbia 0.74

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky users (under 50,000).
** Unique users whose computers were attacked by ransomware trojans as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Top 10 most common families of ransomware trojans

Name Verdicts %*
1 WannaCry Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Wanna 19.03
2 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Gen 16.71
3 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Phny 16.22
4 GandCrab Trojan-Ransom.Win32.GandCrypt 7.73
5 Stop Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Stop 6.62
6 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Encoder 4.28
7 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crypren 4.15
8 PolyRansom/VirLock Virus.Win32.PolyRansom,

Trojan-Ransom.Win32.PolyRansom

2.96
9 Crysis/Dharma Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Crusis 2.02
10 (generic verdict) Trojan-Ransom.Win32.Generic 1.56

* Unique Kaspersky users attacked by the specified family of ransomware trojans as a percentage of all users attacked by ransomware trojans.

Miners

Number of new modifications

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky solutions detected 192,036 new miner modifications.

Number of new miner modifications, Q1 2020 (download)

Number of users attacked by miners

In Q1, we detected attacks using miners on the computers of 518,857 unique users of Kaspersky Lab products worldwide.

Number of unique users attacked by miners, Q1 2020 (download)

Attack geography

 

Geography of miner attacks, Q1 2020 (download)

Top 10 countries attacked by miners

Country* %**
1 Afghanistan 6.72
2 Ethiopia 4.90
3 Tanzania 3.26
4 Sri Lanka 3.22
5 Uzbekistan 3.10
6 Rwanda 2.56
7 Vietnam 2.54
8 Kazakhstan 2.45
9 Mozambique 1.96
10 Pakistan 1.67

* Excluded are countries with relatively few users of Kaspersky products (under 50,000).
** Unique users whose computers were attacked by miners as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Vulnerable applications used by cybercriminals during cyberattacks

We already noted that Microsoft Office vulnerabilities are the most common ones. Q1 2020 was no exception: the share of exploits for these vulnerabilities grew to 74.83%. The most popular vulnerability in Microsoft Office was CVE-2017-11882, which is related to a stack overflow error in the Equation Editor component. Hard on its heels was CVE-2017-8570, which is used to embed a malicious script in an OLE object inside an Office document. Several other vulnerabilities, such as CVE-2018-0802 and CVE-2017-8759, were also popular with attackers. In the absence of security updates for Microsoft Office, these vulnerabilities are successfully exploited and the user’s system becomes infected.

In second place were exploits for vulnerabilities in Internet browsers (11.06%). In Q1, cybercriminals attacked a whole host of browsers, including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. What’s more, some of the vulnerabilities were used in APT attacks, such as CVE-2020-0674, which is associated with the incorrect handling of objects in memory in an outdated version of the JScript scripting engine in Internet Explorer, leading to code execution. Another example is the previously identified CVE-2019-17026, a data type mismatch vulnerability in Mozilla Firefox’s JIT compiler, which also leads to remote code execution. In the event of a successful attack, both browser exploits cause a malware infection. The researchers also detected a targeted attack against Google Chrome exploiting the RCE vulnerability CVE-2020-6418 in the JavaScript engine; in addition, the dangerous RCE vulnerability CVE-2020-0767 was detected in a component of the ChakraCore scripting engine used by Microsoft Edge. Although modern browsers have their own protection mechanisms, cybercriminals are forever finding ways around them, very often using chains of exploits to do so. Therefore, it is vital to keep the operating system and software up to date at all times.

Distribution of exploits used in attacks by type of application attacked, Q1 2020 (download)

This quarter, a wide range of critical vulnerabilities were detected in operating systems and their components.

  • CVE-2020-0601 is a vulnerability that exploits an error in the core cryptographic library of Windows, in a certificate validation algorithm that uses elliptic curves. This vulnerability enables the use of fake certificates that the system recognizes as legitimate.
  • CVE-2020-0729 is a vulnerability in processing LNK files in Windows, which allows remote code execution if the user opens a malicious shortcut.
  • CVE-2020-0688 is the result of a default configuration error in Microsoft Exchange Server, whereby the same cryptographic keys are used to sign and encrypt serialized ASP.NET ViewState data, enabling attackers to execute their own code on the server side with system rights.

Various network attacks on system services and network protocols were as popular as ever with attackers. We continue to detect attempts at exploiting vulnerabilities in the SMB protocol using EternalBlue, EternalRomance and similar sets of exploits. In Q1 2020, the new vulnerability CVE-2020-0796 (SMBGhost) was detected in the SMBv3 network protocol, leading to remote code execution, in which regard the attacker does not even need to know the username/password combination (since the error occurs before the authentication stage); however, it is present only in Windows 10. In Remote Desktop Gateway there were found two critical vulnerabilities (CVE-2020-0609 and CVE-2020-0610) enabling an unauthorized user to execute remote code in the target system. In addition, there were more frequent attempts to brute-force passwords to Remote Desktop Services and Microsoft SQL Server via the SMB protocol as well.

Attacks via web resources

The statistics in this section are based on Web Anti-Virus, which protects users when malicious objects are downloaded from malicious/infected web pages. Malicious websites are specially created by cybercriminals; web resources with user-created content (for example, forums), as well as hacked legitimate resources, can be infected.

Countries that are sources of web-based attacks: Top 10

The following statistics show the distribution by country of the sources of Internet attacks blocked by Kaspersky products on user computers (web pages with redirects to exploits, sites containing exploits and other malicious programs, botnet C&C centers, etc.). Any unique host could be the source of one or more web-based attacks.

To determine the geographical source of web-based attacks, domain names are matched against their actual domain IP addresses, and then the geographical location of a specific IP address (GEOIP) is established.

In Q1 2020, Kaspersky solutions defeated 726,536,269 attacks launched from online resources located in 203 countries worldwide. As many as 442,039,230 unique URLs were recognized as malicious by Web Anti-Virus components.

Distribution of web-based attack sources by country, Q1 2020 (download)

Countries where users faced the greatest risk of online infection

To assess the risk of online infection faced by users in different countries, for each country, we calculated the percentage of Kaspersky users on whose computers Web Anti-Virus was triggered during the quarter. The resulting data provides an indication of the aggressiveness of the environment in which computers operate in different countries.

This rating only includes attacks by malicious programs that fall under the Malware class; it does not include Web Anti-Virus detections of potentially dangerous or unwanted programs such as RiskTool or adware.

Country* % of attacked users**
1 Bulgaria 13.89
2 Tunisia 13.63
3 Algeria 13.15
4 Libya 12.05
5 Bangladesh 9.79
6 Greece 9.66
7 Latvia 9.64
8 Somalia 9.20
9 Philippines 9.11
10 Morocco 9.10
11 Albania 9.09
12 Taiwan, Province of China 9.04
13 Mongolia 9.02
14 Nepal 8.69
15 Indonesia 8.62
16 Egypt 8.61
17 Georgia 8.47
18 France 8.44
19 Palestine 8.34
20 Qatar 8.30

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky users (under 10,000).
** Unique users targeted by Malware-class attacks as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

These statistics are based on detection verdicts returned by the Web Anti-Virus module that were received from users of Kaspersky products who consented to providing statistical data.

On average, 6.56% of Internet user’ computers worldwide experienced at least one Malware-class attack.

Geography of malicious web-based attacks, Q1 2020 (download)

Local threats

In this section, we analyze statistical data obtained from the OAS and ODS modules in Kaspersky products. It takes into account malicious programs that were found directly on users’ computers or removable media connected to computers (flash drives, camera memory cards, phones, external hard drives), or which initially made their way onto the computer in non-open form (for example, programs in complex installers, encrypted files, etc.).

In Q1 2020, our File Anti-Virus registered 164,653,290 malicious and potentially unwanted objects. 

Countries where users faced the highest risk of local infection

For each country, we calculated the percentage of Kaspersky product users on whose computers File Anti-Virus was triggered during the reporting period. These statistics reflect the level of personal-computer infection in different countries.

Note that this rating only includes attacks by malicious programs that fall under the Malware class; it does not include File Anti-Virus triggers in response to potentially dangerous or unwanted programs, such as RiskTool or adware.

Country* % of attacked users**
1 Afghanistan 52.20
2 Tajikistan 47.14
3 Uzbekistan 45.16
4 Ethiopia 45.06
5 Myanmar 43.14
6 Bangladesh 42.14
7 Kyrgyzstan 41.52
8 Yemen 40.88
9 China 40.67
10 Benin 40.21
11 Mongolia 39.58
12 Algeria 39.55
13 Laos 39.21
14 Burkina Faso 39.09
15 Malawi 38.42
16 Sudan 38.34
17 Rwanda 37.84
18 Iraq 37.82
19 Vietnam 37.42
20 Mauritania 37.26

* Excluded are countries with relatively few Kaspersky users (under 10,000).
** Unique users on whose computers Malware-class local threats were blocked as a percentage of all unique users of Kaspersky products in the country.

Geography of local infection attempts, Q1 2020 (download)

Overall, 19.16% of user computers globally faced at least one Malware-class local threat during Q1.


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IT threat evolution Q1 2020 – 10 minute mail

Targeted attacks and malware campaigns

Operation AppleJeus: the sequel

In 2018, we published a report on Operation AppleJeus, one of the more notable campaigns of the threat actor Lazarus, currently one of the most active and prolific APT groups. One notable feature of this campaign was that it marked the first time Lazarus had targeted macOS targets, with the group inventing a fake company in order to deliver its manipulated application and exploit the high level of trust among potential victims.

Our follow-up research revealed significant changes to the group’s attack methodology. To attack macOS victims, Lazarus has developed homemade macOS malware and added an authentication mechanism to deliver the next stage payload very carefully, as well as loading the next-stage payload without touching the disk. In addition, to attack Windows victims, the group has elaborated a multi-stage infection procedure and made significant changes to the final payload. We believe Lazarus has been more careful in its attacks since the release of Operation AppleJeus and has employed a number of methods to avoid detection.

We identified several victims as part of our ongoing research, in the UK, Poland, Russia and China. Moreover, we were able to confirm that several of the victims are linked to cryptocurrency business organizations.

Roaming Mantis turns to SMiShing and enhances anti-researcher techniques

Kaspersky continues to track the Roaming Mantis campaign. This threat actor was first reported in 2017, when it used SMS to distribute its malware to Android devices in just one country – South Korea. Since then, the scope of the group’s activities has widened considerably. Roaming Mantis now supports 27 languages, targets iOS as well as Android and includes cryptocurrency mining for PCs in its arsenal.

Roaming Mantis is strongly motivated by financial gain and is continuously looking for new targets. The group has also put a lot of effort into evading tracking by researchers, including implementing obfuscation techniques and using whitelisting to avoid infecting researchers who navigate to the malicious landing page. While the group is currently applying whitelisting only to Korean pages, we think it is only a matter of time before Roaming Mantis implements this for other languages.

Roaming Mantis has also added new malware families, including Fakecop and Wroba.j. The actor is still very active in using ‘SMiShing‘ for Android malware distribution. This is particularly alarming, because it means that the attackers could combine infected mobile devices into a botnet for malware delivery, SMiShing, and so on. In one of the more recent methods used by the group, a downloaded malicious APK file contains an icon that impersonates a major courier company brand: the spoofed brand icon is customized for the country it targets – for example, Sagawa Express for Japan, Yamato Transport and FedEx for Taiwan, CJ Logistics for South Korea and Econt Express for Russia.

WildPressure on industrial networks in the Middle East

In March, we reported a targeted campaign to distribute Milum, a Trojan designed to gain remote control of devices in target organizations, some of which operate in the industrial sector. We detected the first signs of this operation, which we have dubbed WildPressure, in August 2019; and the campaign remains active.

The Milum samples that we have seen so far do not share any code similarities with any known APT campaigns. All of them allow the attackers to control infected devices remotely: letting them download and execute commands, collect information from the compromised computer and send it to the C2 server and install upgrades to the malware.

Attacks on industrial targets can be particularly devastating. So far, we haven’t seen evidence that the threat actor behind WildPressure is trying to do anything beyond gathering data from infected networks. However, the campaign is still in development, so we don’t yet know what other functionality might be added.

To avoid becoming a victim of this and other targeted attacks, organizations should do the following.

  • Update all software regularly, especially when a new patch becomes available.
  • Deploy a security solution with a proven track record, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security, that is equipped with behavior-based protection against known and unknown threats, including exploits.
  • On top of endpoint protection, implement a corporate-grade security solution designed to detect advanced threats against the network, such as Kaspersky Anti Targeted Attack Platform.
  • Ensure staff understand social engineering and other methods used by attackers and develop a security culture within in the organization.
  • Provide your security team with access to comprehensive cyberthreat intelligence, such as Kaspersky APT Intelligence Reporting.

TwoSail Junk

On January 10, we discovered a watering-hole attack that utilized a full remote iOS exploit chain to deploy a feature-rich implant named LightSpy. Judging by the content of the landing page, the site appears to have been designed to target users in Hong Kong.

Since then, we have released two private reports on LightSpy, available to customers of Kaspersky Intelligence Reporting (please contact [email protected] for further information).

We are temporarily calling the APT group behind this implant TwoSail Junk. Currently, we have hints from known backdoor callbacks to infrastructure about clustering this campaign with previous activity. We are also working with fellow researchers to tie LightSpy to prior activity from a well-established Chinese-speaking APT group, previously reported (here and here) as Spring Dragon (aka Lotus Blossom and Billburg(Thrip)), known for its Lotus Elise and Evora backdoors.

As this LightSpy activity was disclosed publicly by fellow researchers from Trend Micro, we wanted to contribute missing information to the story without duplicating content. In addition, in our quest to secure technologies for a better future, we have reported this malware and activity to Apple and other relevant companies.

Our report includes information about the Android implant, including its deployment, spread and support infrastructure.

A sprinkling of Holy Water in Asia

In December, we discovered watering-hole websites that were compromised to selectively trigger a drive-by download attack with fake Adobe Flash update warnings.

This campaign, which has been active since at least May 2019, targets an Asian religious and ethnic group. The threat actor’s unsophisticated but creative toolset, which has evolved greatly and may still be in development, makes use of Sojson obfuscation, NSIS installer, Python, open-source code, GitHub distribution, Go language and Google Drive-based C2 channels.

The threat actor’s operational target is unclear because we haven’t been able to observe many live operations. We have also been unable to identify any overlap with known APT groups.

Threat hunting with Bitscout

In February, Vitaly Kamluk, from the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky, reported on a new version of Bitscout, based on the upcoming release of Ubuntu 20.04 (scheduled for release in April 2020).

Bitscout is a remote digital forensics tool that we open-sourced about two and a half years ago, when Vitaly was located in the Digital Forensics Lab at INTERPOL. Bitscout has helped us in many cyber-investigations. Based on the widely popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, it incorporates forensics and malware analysis tools created by a large number of excellent developers around the world.

Here’s a summary of the approach we use in Bitscout

  • Bitscout is completely FREE, thereby reducing your forensics budget.
  • It is designed to work remotely, saving time and money that would otherwise be spent on travel. Of course, you can use the same techniques locally.
  • The true value lies not in the toolkit itself, but in the power of all the forensic tools that are included.
  • There’s a steep learning curve involved in mastering Bitscout, which ultimately reinforces the technical foundations of your experts.
  • Bitscout records remote forensics sessions internally, making it perfect for replaying and learning from more experienced practitioners or using as evidential proof of discovery.
  • It is fully open source, so you don’t need to wait for the vendor to implement a patch or feature for you: you are free to reverse-engineer and modify any part of it.

We have launched a project website, bitscout-forensics.info, as the go-to destination for those looking for tips and tricks on remote forensics using Bitscout.

Hunting APTs with YARA

In recent years, we have shared our knowledge and experience of using YARA as a threat hunting tool, mainly through our training course, ‘Hunting APTs with YARA like a GReAT ninja’, delivered during our Security Analyst Summit. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to postpone the forthcoming SAS.

Meanwhile, we have received many requests to make our YARA hands-on training available to more people. This is something we are working on and hope to be able to provide soon as an online training experience. Look out for updates on this by following us on Twitter – @craiu, @kaspersky.

With so many people working from home, and spending even more time online, it is also likely the number of threats and attacks will increase. Therefore, we decided to share some of the YARA experience we have accumulated in recent years, in the hope that all of you will find it useful for keeping threats at bay.

If you weren’t able to join the live presentation, on March 31, you can find the recording here.

We track the activities of hundreds of APT threat actors and regularly highlight the more interesting findings here. However, if you want to know more, please reach out to us at [email protected]

Other security news

Shlayer Trojan attacks macOS users

Although many people consider macOS to be safe, there are cybercriminals who seek to exploit those who use this operating system. One malicious program stands out – the Shlayer Trojan. In 2019, Kaspersky macOS products blocked this Trojan on every tenth device, making this the most widespread threat to people who use macOS.

Shlayer is a smart malware distribution system that spreads via a partner network, entertainment websites and even Wikipedia. This Trojan specializes in the installation of adware – programs that feed victims illicit ads, intercepting and gathering their browser queries and modifying search results to distribute even more advertising messages.

Shlayer accounted for almost one-third of all attacks on macOS devices registered by Kaspersky products between January and November last year – and nearly all other top 10 macOS threats were adware programs that Shlayer installs.

The infection starts with an unwitting victim downloading the malicious program. The criminals behind Shlayer set up a malware distribution system with a number of channels leading their victims to download the malware. Shlayer is offered as a way to monetize websites in a number of file partner programs, with relatively high payment for each malware installation made by users in the US, prompting over 1,000 ‘partner sites’ to distribute Shlayer. This scheme works as follows: a user looks for a TV series episode or a football match, and advertising landing pages redirect them to fake Flash Player update pages. From here, the victim downloads the malware; and for each installation, the partner who distributed links to the malware receives a pay-per-install payment.

Other schemes that we saw led to a fake Adobe Flash update page that redirected victims from various large online services with multi-million audiences, including YouTube, where links to the malicious website were included in video descriptions, and Wikipedia, where such links were hidden in article references. People that clicked on these links would also be redirected to the Shlayer download landing pages. Kaspersky researchers found 700 domains containing malicious content, with links to them on a variety of legitimate websites.

Almost all the websites that led to a fake Flash Player contained content in English. This corresponds to the countries where we have seen most infections – the US (31%), Germany (14%), France (10%) and the UK (10%).

Blast from the past

Although many people still use the term “virus” to mean any malicious program, it actually refers specifically to self-replicating code, i.e., malicious code that copies itself from file to file on the same computer. Viruses, which used to dominate the threat landscape, are now rare. However, there are some interesting exceptions to this trend and we came across one recently – the first real virus we’ve seen in the wild for some time.

The virus, called KBOT, infects the victim’s computer via the internet, a local network, or infected external media. After the infected file is launched, the malware gains a foothold in the system, writing itself to Startup and the Task Scheduler, and then deploys web injects to try to steal the victim’s bank and personal data. KBOT can also download additional stealer modules that harvest and send to the Command-and-Control (C2) server comprehensive information about the victim, including passwords/logins, crypto-wallet data, lists of files and installed applications, and so on. The malware stores all its files and stolen data in a virtual file system, encrypted using the RC6 algorithm, making it hard to detect.

Cybercriminals exploiting fears about data breaches

Phishers are always on the lookout for hot topics that they can use to hook their victims, including sport, politics, romance, shopping, banking, natural disasters and anything else that might entice someone into clicking on a link or malicious file attachment.

Recently, cybercriminals have exploited the theme of data leaks to try to defraud people. Data breaches, and the fines imposed for failing to safeguard data, are now a staple feature of the news. The scammers posed as an organization called the “Personal Data Protection Fund” and claim that the “US Trading Commission” had set up a fund to compensate people whose personal data had been exposed.

However, in order to get the compensation, the victims are asked to provide a social security number. The scammers offer to sell a temporary SSN to those who don’t have one.

Even if the potential victim enters a valid SSN, they are still directed to a page asking them to purchase a temporary SSN.

You can read the full story here.

… and coronavirus

The bigger the hook, the bigger the pool of potential victims. So it’s no surprise that cybercriminals are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic. We have found malicious PDF, MP4 and DOCX files disguised as information about the coronavirus. The names of the files suggest they contain video instructions on how to protect yourself, updates on the threat and even virus detection procedures. In fact, these files are capable of destroying, blocking, modifying or copying data, as well as interfering with the operation of the computer.

The cybercriminals behind the Ginp banking Trojan recently developed a new campaign related to COVID-19. After receiving a special command, the Trojan opens a web page called Coronavirus Finder. This provides a simple interface that claims to show the number of people nearby who are infected with the virus and asks you to pay a small sum to see their location.

The Trojan then provides a payment form.

Then … nothing else happens – apart from the criminals taking your money. Data from the Kaspersky Security Network suggests that most users who have encountered Ginp are located in Spain. However, this is a new version of Ginp that is tagged “flash-2”, while previous versions were tagged “flash-es12”. So perhaps the lack of “es” in the tag of the newer version means the cybercriminals are planning to expand their campaign beyond Spain.

We have also seen a number of phishing scams where cybercriminals pose as bona fide organizations to trick people into clicking on links to fake sites where the scammers capture their personal information, or even ask them to donate money.

If you’ve ever wanted to know why it’s so easy for phishers to create spoof emails, and what efforts have been made to make it harder for them, you can find a good overview of the problems and potential solutions here.

Cybercriminals are also taking the opportunity to attack the information infrastructure of medical facilities, clearly hoping that the overload on IT services will provide them with an opportunity to break into hospital networks, or are attempting to extort money from clinical research companies. In an effort to ensure that IT security isn’t something that medical teams have to worry about, we’re offering medical institutions free six-month licenses for our core solutions.

In February, we reported an unusual malware campaign in which cybercriminals were spreading the AZORult Trojan as a fake installer for ProtonVPN.

The aim of the campaign is to steal personal information and crypto-currency from the victims.

The attackers created a spoof copy a VPN service’s website, which looks like the original but has a different domain name. The criminals spread links to the domain through advertisements using different banner networks – a practice known as malvertizing. When someone visits a phishing website, they are prompted to download a free VPN installer for Windows. Once launched, this drops a copy of the AZORult botnet implant. This collects the infected device’s environment information and reports it to the server. Finally, the attackers steal crypto-currency from locally available wallets (Electrum, Bitcoin, Etherium and others), FTP logins, and passwords from FileZilla, email credentials, information from locally installed browsers (including cookies), credentials from WinSCP, Pidgin messenger and others.

AZORult is one of the most commonly bought and sold stealers on Russian forums due to its wide range of capabilities. The Trojan is able to harvest a good deal of data, including browser history, login credentials, cookies, files and crypto-wallet files; and can also be used as a loader to download other malware.

Distributing malware under the guise of security certificates

Distributing malware under the guise of legitimate software updates is not new. Typically, cybercriminals invite potential victims to install a new version of a browser or Adobe Flash Player. However, we recently discovered a new approach: visitors to infected sites were informed that some kind of security certificate had expired.

They were offered an update that infected them with malware – specifically the Buerak downloader and Mokes backdoor.

We detected the infection on variously themed websites – from a zoo to a store selling auto parts. The earliest infections that we found date back to January 16.

Mobile malware sending offensive messages

We have seen many mobile malware apps re-invent themselves, adding new layers of functionality over time. The Faketoken Trojan offers a good example of this. Over the last six years, it has developed from an app designed to capture one-time passcodes, to a fully-fledged mobile banking Trojan, to ransomware. By 2017, Faketoken was able to mimic many different apps, including mobile banking apps, e-wallets, taxi service apps and apps used to pay fines and penalties – all in order to steal bank account data.

Recently, we observed 5,000 Android smartphones infected by Faketoken sending offensive text messages. SMS capability is a standard feature of many mobile malware apps, many of which spread by sending links to their victims’ contacts; and banking Trojans typically try to make themselves the default SMS application, in order to intercept one-time passcodes. However, we had not seen one become a mass texting tool.

The messages sent by Faketoken are charged to the owner of the device; and since many of the infected smartphones we saw were texting a foreign number, the cost was quite high. Before sending any messages, the Trojan checks to see if there are sufficient funds in the victim’s bank account. If there are, Faketoken tops up the mobile account sending any messages.

We don’t yet know whether this is a one-off campaign or the start of a trend. To avoid becoming a victim of Faketoken, download apps only from Google Play, disable the downloading of apps from other sources, don’t follow links from messages and protect your device with a reputable mobile security product.

The use and abuse of the Android AccessibilityService

In January, we reported that cybercriminals were using malware to boost the rating of specific apps, to increase the number of installations.

The Shopper.a Trojan also displays advertising messages on infected devices, creates shortcuts to advertising sites and more.

The Trojan opens Google Play (or other app store), installs several programs and writes fake user reviews about them. To prevent the victim noticing, the Trojan conceals the installation window behind an ‘invisible’ window. Shopper.a gives itself the necessary permissions using the Android AccessibilityService. This service is intended to help people with disabilities use a smartphone, but if a malicious app obtains permission to use it, the malware has almost limitless possibilities for interacting with the system interface and apps – including intercepting data displayed on the screen, clicking buttons and emulating user gestures.

Shopper.a was most widespread in Russia, Brazil and India.

You should be wary if an app requests access to the AccessibilityService but doesn’t need it. Even if the only danger posed by such apps comes from automatically written reviews, there is no guarantee that its creators will not change the payload later.

Everyone loves cookies – including cybercriminals

We recently discovered a new malicious Android Trojan, dubbed Cookiethief, designed to acquire root permissions on the victim’s device and transfer cookies used by the browser and the Facebook app to the cybercriminals’ C2 server. Using the stolen cookies, the criminals can gain access to the unique session IDs that websites and online services use to identify someone, thereby allowing the criminals to assume someone’s identity and gain access to online accounts without the need for a login and password.

On the C2 server, we found a page advertising services for distributing spam on social networks and messengers, which we think is the underlying motive in stealing cookies.

From the C2 server addresses and encryption keys used, we were able to link Cookiethief to widespread Trojans such as Sivu, Triada, and Ztorg. Usually, such malware is either planted in the device firmware before purchase, or it gets into system folders through vulnerabilities in the operating system and then downloads various applications onto the system.

Stalkerware: no place to hide

We recently discovered a new sample of stalkerware – commercial software typically used by those who want to monitor a partner, colleague or others – that contains functionality beyond anything we have seen before. You can find more information on stalkerware here and here.

MonitorMinor, goes beyond other stalkerware programs. Primitive stalkerware uses geo-fencing technology, enabling the operator to track the victim’s location, and in most cases intercept SMS and call data. MonitorMinor goes a few steps further: recognizing the importance of messengers as a means of data collection, this app aims to get access to data from all the popular modern communication tools.

Normally, the Android sandbox prevents direct communication between apps. However, if a superuser app has been installed, which grants root access to the system, it overrides the security mechanisms of the device. The developers of MonitorMinor use this to enable full access to data on a variety of popular social media and messaging applications, including Hangouts, Instagram, Skype and Snapchat. They also use root privileges to access screen unlock patterns, enabling the stalkerware operator to unlock the device when it is nearby or when they next have physical access to the device. Kaspersky has not previously seen this feature in any other mobile threat.

Even without root access, the stalkerware can operate effectively by abusing the AccessibilityService API, which is designed to make devices friendly for users with disabilities. Using this API, the stalkerware is able to intercept any events in the applications and broadcast live audio.

Our telemetry indicates that the countries with the largest share of installations of MonitorMinor are India, Mexico, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

We recommend the following tips to reduce the risk of falling victim to a stalker:

  • Block the installation of apps from unknown sources in your smartphone settings.
  • Never disclose the password or passcode to your mobile device, even with someone you trust.
  • If you are ending a relationship, change security settings on your mobile device, such as passwords and app location access settings.
  • Keep a check on the apps installed on your device, to see if any suspicious apps have been installed without your consent
  • Use a reliable security solution that notifies you about the presence of commercial spyware programs aimed at invading your privacy, such as Kaspersky Internet Security.
  • If you think you are being stalked, reach out to a professional organization for advice.
  • For further guidance, contact the Coalition against Stalkerware
  • There are resources that can assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual violence. If you need further help, please contact the Coalition against Stalkerware.


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A look at the ATM/PoS malware landscape from 2017-2019 – 10 minute mail

From remote administration and jackpotting, to malware sold on the Darknet, attacks against ATMs have a long and storied history.  And, much like other areas of cybercrime, attackers only refine and grow their skillset for infecting ATM systems from year-to-year. So what does the ATM landscape look like as of 2020? Let’s take a look.

The world of ATM/PoS malware

ATM attacks aren’t new, and that’s not surprising. After all, what is one of the primary motives driving cyber criminals? Money. And ATMs are cash hubs—one successful attack can net you hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the past, even high-profile threat actors have made ATMs their prime target.

However, attacking ATMs is a bit different from traditional financial-related threats, like phishing emails or spoofed websites. That’s because ATMs operate in a unique space in the tech world: they’re still connected to the corporate networks but at the same time must be accessible to anyone that passes by. The resulting technical differences means the attack methods differ from those used for traditional endpoints.

ATMs also share several common characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable to attacks:

  • Traditional software that is part of the warranty offered by the vendors → If major changes occur that are not approved by the ATM vendor, including installing AV software, then sometimes this warranty is lost.
  • Regular use of outdated operating systems and the apps its runs on
  • Locations chosen in a way that provide access to as many customers as possible, including those in remote regions → These isolated locations often lack any reasonable physical security

Old software means unpatched vulnerabilities—ones criminals can exploit—and isolated areas makes it easier for criminals to gain physical access to the internal ports of the motherboard. This is especially typical for the old ATM machines located in many regions with low resources and no budgets for ATM upgrades.  When combined, ATMs become not only a highly profitable target—but an easy one.

From 2017 to 2019, there has been a marked increase in ATM attacks, due to a few families being particularly active. These target systems around the globe, regardless of the vendor, and have one of two goals: either stealing customers’ information or funneling funds directly from the bank.

Considering all of the above, we decided to delve further into what has been happening in the world of ATM/PoS malware for the last few years.

ATM/oOS malware attacks: by the numbers

To gain a closer look at ATM malware worldwide, we utilized the statistics processed by Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) over the course of the past three years globally.

Number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2017-2019 (download)

The results showed that the number of unique devices protected by Kaspersky that encountered ATM/PoS (point-of-sale) malware at least once experienced a two-digit growth in 2018—and this number held steady, even increasing slightly, in 2019.

Geography of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2017 (download)

TOP 10 countries by number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware in 2017

Country Devices
1 Russian Federation 1016
2 Brazil 423
3 Vietnam 281
4 United States 148
5 India 137
6 Turkey 96
7 China 94
8 Germany 58
9 Philippines 53
10 Mexico 51

The ten countries that had the greatest number of unique devices affected by ATM/POS malware were relatively dispersed around the globe, with the highest number in Russia. Russia has had a long history of threat actors targeting financial institutions. For example, it was in 2017 that Kaspersky researchers  uncovered an ATM malware dubbed “ATMitch” that was gaining remote access control over ATMS at Russian banks. In addition, the relatively high rates in both Brazil and Mexico can be partially attributed to Latin and South America’s longstanding history as a hotspot of ATM malware.

Geography of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2018 (download)

TOP 10 countries by number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware in 2018

Country Devices
1 Russian Federation 1370
2 Brazil 753
3 Italy 537
4 United States 519
5 Vietnam 433
6 India 408
7 Thailand 369
8 Germany 277
9 Turkey 224
10 Iran 198

In 2018, the countries with the greatest number of ATM/PoS malware incidents recorded by unique devices remained distributed worldwide, but the countries remained similar to 2017, with the highest activity recorded in Russia and Brazil.

The overall increase in the number of devices affected can be attributed to both the reappearance of new ATM malware and the development of new families:

  • ATMJackpot first appeared in Taiwan back in 2016. It infects the banks’ internal networks, allowing it to withdraw funds directly from the ATM. ATMJackpot was able to reach thousands of ATMs.
  • WinPot was discovered at the beginning of 2018 in Eastern Europe and was designed to make the infected ATM automatically dispense all cash from its most valuable cassettes. Because of its time counter, its execution is time-dependent: if the targeted system’s time does not fall within the preset period during which the malware was programmed to work (e.g. March), WinPot silently stops operating without showing its interface.
  • Ice5 originated in Latin America. Its engineering tool is written in a scripting language that allows the attackers to achieve a significant level of manipulation over the infected ATMs. The initial infection occurs via the USB port.
  • ATMTest is a multi-stage infection in 2018. It requires console access to the ATM, meaning the attackers have to gain remote access to the bank’s networks. This malware was originally coded to steal money in rubles.
  • Peralta was an evolution of the infamous ATM malware project called Ploutus, which led to losses of $64,864,864.00 across 73,258 compromised ATMs. Both Peralta and Ploutus originated in Latin America.
  • ATMWizX was discovered in the fall of 2018 and dispenses all cash automatically, starting with the most valuable cassettes.
  • ATMDtruck also appeared in the fall of 2018 with indications that the first victims were in India. It collects enough information from the credit cards inputted into the infected ATM that it can actually clone them. It drops the malware “Dtrack”, which is a sophisticated spy tool.

Geography of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware, 2019 (download)

TOP 10 countries by number of unique devices that encountered ATM/PoS malware in 2019

Country Devices
1 Russian Federation 2306
2 Iran 1178
3 Brazil 819
4 Vietnam 416
5 India 353
6 Germany 228
7 United States 220
8 Italy 197
9 Turkey 149
10 Mexico 114

This past year, the ten countries with the highest level of ATM/PoS malware activity remained the same, with only one change: Mexico once again entered the top ten, while Thailand left.

Overall, the total number of devices affected increased once again. In fact, ATM/PoS malware activity reached new levels by the spring of 2019 with a string of operations: ATMqot, ATMqotX, and ATMJaDi. ATMgot operates directly on the ATM using the dispenser to withdraw the maximum number of banknotes allowed; if it cannot do this, it will default to 20 notes. This malware also possesses anti-forensic techniques that allow it to delete traces of the infection from the ATMs, as well as some video files, which could potentially be used as part of video monitoring.

ATMJadi orginated in Latin America and is capable of cashing out ATMs. Since it’s a Java-based project, it’s platform-dependent—and thus highly targeted. In order to be installed, the attackers must gain access to the bank’s network. This suggests the attackers first compromise the bank’s infrastructure. But what’s perhaps most interesting is the false flag section with strings in the Russian language.

The problem of cyberattacks is compounded by the use of outdated and unpatched systems. That means that, even as new 2019 malware families were developed, the old ATM families from the previous years can still be used to launch successful attacks.

A look towards the future

ATM/PoS malware will only continue to evolve, and so, we will continue to monitor the ecosystem closely. We’ve already seen WinPot, first discovered in 2018, active this year in different parts of the world.

Latin America has long been known as a region of innovative cybercriminals who adopt techniques other region uses. It’s not surprising then that a new trend was recently discovered in development: an ATM MaaS project whereby a group in Latin America is attempting to sell ATM malware developed for each major vendor on the market. Projects like these provide further evidence that the world of ATM malware is still evolving, with cybercriminals continuously developing better attack strategies.

Our research has also shown that, beyond Latin America, countries in Europe and the APAC region are of particular interest to ATM attackers, as is the United States. This signifies that ATM malware is a truly global threat. After all, ATMs are located in nearly every country and few systems offer access to such massive amounts of fund.

How, then, can you protect your money? No matter how digital banking has become, ATMs are still an inevitable part of managing your funds. While you can’t control whether or not an ATM machine is attacked, by conscientiously monitoring your accounts and financial transactions, you can make sure suspicious activity is quickly identified and the proper channels duly notified. This should help mitigate the damage caused by any attack.

For financial institutions, staying secure requires a comprehensive, multi-step approach:

  1. Evaluate which attack vectors are more likely to be used and generate a threat model. This will depend, for example, on what network architecture is in place and where the ATM is installed – a place not controlled by your organization, such as a wall on the street, or an office under video surveillance, etc.
  2. Determine which ATMs are outdated or have an OS version that’s reaching the end of its vendor support. If you cannot replace the legacy devices, pay attention to this fact in your threat model and set the appropriate security solution settings, which do not affect the device’s productivity.
  3. Regularly conduct security assessments or pentests of ATMs to find possible cyberattack vectors. Kaspersky’s threat hunting service can also help you find sophisticated cybercriminals.
  4. Regularly review the physical safety of ATMs to detect abnormal elements implemented by attackers.
  1. If ATM configurations permit it, install a security solution that protects the devices from different attack vectors, such as Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security. If the device has extremely low system specs, the Kaspersky solution would still protect it with a Default Deny whitelisting scenario

PoS terminals are in many aspects similar to ATMs, but still possess a number of differences to be mindful of—and tackled accordingly. Apart from the steps mentioned above (which remain applicable), the following must be taken into account:

  1. Often more powerful when compared to an average ATM, Windows-based PoS terminals offer greater spaces for attackers’ maneuvering and are capable of running a broad range of modern malware and hacking tools. This makes implementation of multi-layered protection a must.
  2. While also residing in public spaces, they generally lack ATMs’ heavy armor. Therefore, they are more susceptible to direct attacks using unauthorized devices. This makes properly configured Device Control even more valuable.
  3. As they are frequently involved not only in financial, but also personal, data processing, this adds to their attractiveness for cyberattacks and also subjects them to more legislation. In combination with direct attack scenarios, implementation of file integrity monitoring and log inspection are mandatory, preferably in a way that allows tracking changes offline.
  4. Embedded systems should be protected not only by host-based security, but also by application of network-level security, such as Secure Web Gateways or Next-gen Firewalls capable of detecting and blocking unsolicited communications and other systems both inside and outside of the company’s infrastructure.


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Mobile malware evolution 2019 | Securelist – 10 minute mail

These statistics are based on detection verdicts of Kaspersky products received from users who consented to provide statistical data.

Figures of the year

In 2019, Kaspersky mobile products and technologies detected:

  • 3,503,952 malicious installation packages.
  • 69,777 new mobile banking Trojans.
  • 68,362 new mobile ransomware Trojans.

In summing up 2019, two trends in particular stick out:

  • Attacks on users’ personal data became more frequent.
  • Detections of Trojans on the most popular application marketplaces became more frequent.

This report discusses each in more detail below, with examples and statistics.

Attacks on personal data: stalkerware

Over the past year, the number of attacks on the personal data of mobile device users increased by half: from 40,386 unique users in 2018 to 67,500 in 2019. This is not about classic spyware or Trojans, but so-called stalkerware.

Number of unique users attacked by stalkerware in 2018–2019 (download)

Stalkerware can be divided into two major categories:

  • Trackers.
  • Full-fledged tracking apps.

The creators of trackers generally focus on two main features: tracking victims’ coordinates and intercepting text messages. Until recently, many such apps, mostly free, were available on the official Google Play marketplace. After Google Play changed its policy in late 2018, most of them were removed from the store, and most developers pulled support for their products. However, such trackers can still be found on their developers’ and third-party sites.

If such an app gets onto a device, messages and data about the user’s location become accessible to third parties. These third parties are not necessarily only those tracking the user: the client-server interaction of some services ignores even the minimum security requirements, allowing anyone to gain access to the accumulated data.

The situation of full-fledged stalkerware is somewhat different: there are no such apps on Google Play, but they are actively supported by developers. These tend to be commercial solutions with extensive spying capabilities. They can harvest almost any data on a compromised device: photos (both entire archives and individual pictures, for example, taken at a certain location), phone calls, texts, location information, screen taps (keylogging), and so on.

Screenshot from the site of a stalkerware app developer showing the capabilities of the software

Many apps exploit root privileges to extract messaging history from protected storage in social networking and instant messaging applications. If it cannot gain the required access, the stalkerware can take screenshots, log screen taps and even extract the text of incoming and outgoing messages from the windows of popular services using the Accessibility feature. One example is the commercial spyware app Monitor Minor.

Screenshot from the site of a stalkerware app developer showing the software’s ability to intercept data from social networks and messengers

The developers of the commercial spyware FinSpy went one step further by adding a feature to intercept correspondence in secure messengers, such as Signal, Threema and others. To ensure interception, the app independently obtains root privileges by exploiting the vulnerability CVE-2016-5195, aka “Dirty Cow”. The expectation is that the victim is using an old device with an outdated operating system kernel in which the exploit can escalate privileges to root.

It is worth noting that the user base of messaging apps includes hundreds of millions. Classic calls and texts are being used less and less, and communication — be it text messages or voice/video calls — is gradually moving to instant messaging applications. Hence the rising interest in data stored in such apps.

Attacks on personal data: advertising apps

In 2019, we observed a significant increase in the number of adware threats, one purpose being to harvest personal data on mobile devices.

The statistics show that the number of users attacked by adware in 2019 is roughly unchanged from 2018.

Number of users attacked by adware in 2018 and 2019 (download)

At the same time, the number of detected adware installation packages almost doubled from 2018.

Number of detected adware installation packages in 2018 and 2019. (download)

These indicators typically correlate, but not in the case of adware. This can be explained by several factors:

  • Adware installation packages are generated automatically and spread literally everywhere, but for some reason do not reach the target audience. It is possible that they get detected immediately after being generated and cannot propagate further.
  • Often, such apps contain nothing useful — just an adware module; so the victim immediately deletes them, assuming that they allow removing themselves.

Nevertheless, it is the second successive year that adware has appeared in our Top 3 detected threats. KSN statistics confirm it to be one of the most common types of threats: four places in our Top 10 mobile threats by number of users attacked in 2019 are reserved for adware-class apps, with one member of the family, HiddenAd, taking the third.

Вердикт %*
1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 35,83
2 Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh 8,30
3 AdWare.AndroidOS.HiddenAd.et 4,60
4 AdWare.AndroidOS.Agent.f 4,05
5 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch 3,89
6 DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML 3,85
7 AdWare.AndroidOS.HiddenAd.fc 3,73
8 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.cr 2,49
9 AdWare.AndroidOS.MobiDash.ap 2,42
10 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.n 1,84

*Share of all users attacked by this type of malware in the total number of users attacked.

In 2019, mobile adware developers not only generated tens of thousands of packages, but also technically enhanced their products, in particular through the addition of techniques to bypass operating system restrictions.

For example, Android imposes certain restrictions on background operation of applications for battery-saving reasons. This negatively impacts the operation of various threats, including adware apps that like to lurk in the background and wait for, say, a new banner to arrive from C&C. The introduction of such restrictions made it impossible for apps to show ads outside the context of their own window, thus starving most adware of oxygen.

The creators of the KeepMusic adware family found a smart workaround. To bypass the restrictions, their software does not request permissions like, for example, malware does. Instead, the program starts looping an MP3 file that plays silence. The operating system decides that the music player is running, and does not terminate the KeepMusic background process. As a result, the adware can request a banner from the server and display it any time.

Attacks on personal data: exploiting access to Accessibility

The year 2019 saw the appearance of the first specimen of mobile financial malware (Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Gustuff.a), featuring enhanced autonomy. Until then, two methods had been used to steal money from bank accounts:

  • Via SMS banking on the victim end. This is an autonomous theft technique that requires only information about the transfer recipient. This data the bot can either store in its body or receive as a command from C&C. The Trojan infects the device and sends a text with a transfer request to a special bank phone number. The bank then automatically transfers the funds to the recipient from the device owner’s account. Due to the increase in such theft, limits on mobile transfers have been tightened, so this attack vector has been relegated to backup.
  • By stealing online banking credentials. This has been the dominant method in recent years. Cybercriminals display a phishing window on the victim’s device that mimics the bank’s login page and reels in the victim’s credentials. In this case, the cybercriminals need to carry out the transaction themselves, using the app on their own mobile device or a browser. It is possible that the bank’s anti-fraud systems can detect the abnormal activity and block it, leaving the attackers empty-handed even if the victim’s device is infected.

In 2019, cybercriminals mastered a third method: stealing by manipulating banking apps. First, the victim is persuaded to run the app and sign in, for example, using a fake push notification supposedly from the bank. Tapping the notification does indeed open the banking app, which the attackers, using Accessibility, gain full control over, enabling them to fill out forms, tap buttons, etc. Moreover, the bot operator does not need to do anything, because the malware performs all actions required. Such transactions are trusted by banks, and the maximum transfer amount can exceed the limits of SMS banking by an order of magnitude. As a result, the cybercriminals can clean out the account in one go.

Stealing funds from bank accounts is just one malicious use of Accessibility. In effect, any malware with these permissions can control all on-screen processes, while any Android app is basically a visual representation of buttons, data entry forms, information display, and so on. Even if developers implement their own control elements, such as a slider that needs to be moved at a certain speed, this too can be done using Accessibility commands. Thus, cybercriminals have tremendous leeway to create what are perhaps the most dangerous classes of mobile malware: spyware, banking Trojans and ransomware Trojans.

The misuse of the Accessibility features poses a serious threat to users’ personal data. Where previously cybercriminals had to overlay phishing windows and request a bunch of permissions in order to steal personal information, now victims themselves output all necessary data to the screen or enter it in forms, where it can be easily gleaned. And if the malware needs more, it can open the Settings section by itself, tap a few buttons, and obtain the necessary permissions.

Slipping malware into the main Android app store delivers much better results than social engineering victims into installing apps from third-party sources. In addition, this approach enables attackers to:

  • Bypass SafetyNet, Android’s built-in antivirus protection. If a user downloads an app from Google Play, the likelihood that it will be installed without additional requests — for example, to disable the built-in protection under an imaginary pretext — is very high. The only thing that can protect the user from infection in that situation is a third-party security solution.
  • Overcome psychological barriers. Official app stores enjoy far greater trust than third-party “markets,” and act as store windows of sorts that can be used for distributing software much more efficiently.
  • Target victims without unnecessary spending. Google Play can be used to host fakes that visually mimic, say, popular banking apps. This was the distribution vector used in a spate of attacks on mobile users in Brazil: we detected numerous malicious programs on Google Play under the guise of mobile apps for Brazilian banks.

In addition to malicious doppelgangers, cybercriminals deployed several other tricks to maximize device infection rates:

  • The case of CamScanner showed that an app’s legitimate behavior can be supplemented with malicious functions by updating its code for handling advertising. This could be described as the most sophisticated attack vector, since its success depends on a large number of factors, including the user base of the host app, the developer’s trust in third-party advertising code and the type of malicious activity.
  • Another example demonstrates that attackers sometimes upload to Google Play fairly well-behaved apps from popular user categories. In this case, it was photo editors.
  • The most depressing case involves a Trojan from the Joker family, of which we have found many samples on Google Play, and still are. Deploying the tactic of mass posting, cybercriminals uploaded apps under all kinds of guises: from wallpaper-changing tools and security solutions to popular games. In some cases, the Trojan scored hundreds of thousands of downloads. No other attack vector can reach this kind of audience within such a short space of time.

The good news is that Google and the antivirus industry have teamed up to fight threats on the site. This approach should prevent most malware from penetrating the official Google app store.

Statistics

In 2019, we discovered 3,503,952 mobile malicious installation packages, which is 1,817,190 less than in the previous year. We have not detected so few mobile threats since 2015.

Number of mobile malicious installation packages for Android in 2015–2019 (download)

For three consecutive years, we have seen an overall decline in the number of mobile threats distributed as installation packages. The picture largely depends on specific cybercriminal campaigns: some have become less active, others have completely ceased, and new players have yet to gain momentum.

The situation is similar with the number of attacks using mobile threats: whereas in 2018 we observed a total of 116.5 million attacks, in 2019 the figure was down to 80 million.

Number of attacks defeated by Kaspersky mobile solutions in 2018–2019 (download)

The figures were back to the year before, before the start of the Asacub banking Trojan epidemic.

Since the number of attacks correlates with the number of users attacked, we observed a similar picture for this indicator.

Number of users attacked by mobile malware in 2018–2019 (download)

Geography of attacked users in 2019 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile malware:

Country* %**
Iran 60.64
Pakistan 44.43
Bangladesh 43.17
Algeria 40.20
India 37.98
Indonesia 35.12
Nigeria 33.16
Tanzania 28.51
Saudi Arabia 27.94
Malaysia 27.36

*Excluded from the rankings are countries with fewer than 25,000 active users of Kaspersky mobile security solutions in the reporting period.
**Unique users attacked in the country as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile security solutions in the country.

In 2019, Iran (60.64%) again topped the list for the third year in a row. The most common threats in that country come from adware and potentially unwanted software: Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.bn, AdWare.AndroidOS.Agent.fa, and RiskTool.AndroidOS.Dnotua.yfe.

Pakistan (44.43%) climbed from seventh to second place, mainly on the back of a rise in the number of users attacked by adware. The largest contribution was made by members of the AdWare.AndroidOS.HiddenAd family. A similar picture can be seen in Bangladesh (43.17%), whose share has grown due to the same adware families.

Types of mobile threats

Distribution of new mobile threats by type in 2018 and 2019 (download)

In 2019, the share of RiskTool-class threats decreased by 20 p.p. (32.46%). We believe the main reason to be the sharp drop in the generation of threats from the SMSreg family. A characteristic feature of this family is payments via SMS: for example, money transfers or subscriptions to mobile services. Moreover, the user is not explicitly informed of the payment or money being charged to their mobile account. Whereas in 2018, we picked up 1,970,742 SMSreg installation packages, the number decreased by an order of magnitude to 193,043 in 2019. At the same time, far from declining, the number of packages of other members of this class of threats increased noticeably.

Name of family %*
1 Agent 27.48
2 SMSreg 16.89
3 Dnotua 13.83
4 Wapron 13.73
5 SmsSend 9.15
6 Resharer 4.62
7 SmsPay 3.55
8 PornVideo 2.51
9 Robtes 1.23
10 Yoga 1.03

*Share of packages of this family in the total number of riskware-class packages detected in 2019.

Skymobi and Paccy dropped out of the Top 10 families of potentially unwanted software; the number of installation packages of these families detected in 2019 decreased tenfold. Their creators likely minimized or even ceased their development and distribution. However, a new player appeared: the Resharer family (4.62%), which ranked sixth. This family is noted for its self-propagation through posting information about itself on various sites and mailing it to the victim’s contacts.

Adware demonstrated the most impressive growth, up by 14 p.p. The main source of this growth was HiddenAd (26.81%); the number of installation packages of this family increased by two orders of magnitude against 2018.

Name of family %*
1 HiddenAd 26.81
2 MobiDash 20.45
3 Ewind 16.34
4 Agent 15.27
5 Dnotua 5.51
6 Kuguo 1.36
7 Dowgin 1.28
8 Triada 1.20
9 Feiad 1.01
10 Frupi 0.94

*Share of packages of this family in the total number of adware-class packages detected in 2019.

Significant growth also came from the MobiDash (20.45%) and Ewind (16.34%) families. Meanwhile, the Agent family (15.27%), which held a leading position in 2018, dropped to fourth place.

Compared to 2018, the number of mobile Trojans detected decreased sharply. A downward trend has been observed for two consecutive years now, yet droppers remain one of the most numerous malware classes. The Hqwar family showed the most notable decrease: down from 141,000 packages in 2018 to 22,000 in 2019. At the same time, 2019 saw the debut of the Ingopack family: we detected 115,654 samples of this dropper.

Meanwhile, the share of Trojan-class threats rose by 6 p.p., with the two most numerous malware families of this class being Boogr and Hiddapp. The Boogr family contains various Trojans that have been detected using machine-learning (ML) technology. A feature of the Hiddapp family is that it hides its icon in the list of installed apps while continuing to run in the background.

The share of mobile ransomware Trojans slightly increased. The Top 3 families of this class of threats remained the same as in 2018: Svpeng, Congur, and Fusob — in that order.

Top 20 mobile malware programs

The following malware rankings omit potentially unwanted software, such as RiskTool and AdWare.

Verdict %*
1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 49.15
2 Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh 10.95
3 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch 5.19
4 DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML 5.08
5 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.n 3.45
6 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.cr 3.28
7 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.snt 2.35
8 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.bb 2.10
9 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Lezok.p 1.76
10 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.a 1.66
11 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a 1.65
12 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.ak 1.60
13 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.b 1.59
14 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.gen 1.50
15 Exploit.AndroidOS.Lotoor.be 1.46
16 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.cf 1.35
17 Trojan.AndroidOS.Dvmap.a 1.33
18 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.ep 1.31
19 Trojan.AndroidOS.Agent.rt 1.28
20 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Tiny.d 1.14

*Share of users attacked by this type of malware out of all attacked users

As we wrap up the year 2019, first place in our Top 20 mobile malware, as in previous years, goes to the verdict DangerousObject.Multi.Generic (49.15%), which we use for malware detected with cloud technology. The verdict is applied where the antivirus databases still have no signatures or heuristics for malware detection. This way, the most recent malware is uncovered.

In second place came the verdict Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh (10.95%). This verdict is assigned to files recognized as malicious by our ML-based system. Another result of this system’s work is objects with the verdict DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML (5.08%, fourth place in the rating). This verdict is assigned to files whose structure is identical to that of malicious files.

Third, sixth, and sixteenth places were taken by members of the Hiddapp family. We assign this verdict to any app that hides its icon in the list of apps immediately after starting. Subsequent actions of such apps may be anything from downloading or dropping other apps to displaying ads.

Fifth and thirteenth places went to members of the Necro family of droppers and loaders. In both threat classes, Necro members did not make it into the Top 10 by number of detected files. Even the weakened Hwar family of droppers strongly outperformed Necro by number of generated objects. That said, users often encountered Necro members due to the family’s penetration of Google Play.

Seventh and tenth places went to the Asacub family of banking Trojans. Whereas at the start of the year, the Trojan’s operators were still actively spreading the malware, starting in March 2019, we noticed a drop in this family’s activity.

Number of unique users attacked by the Asacub mobile banking Trojan in 2019 (download)

Eighth and fourteenth places were reserved for droppers in the Hqwar family. Their activity dropped significantly from 80,000 attacked users in 2018 to 28,000 in 2019. However, we continue to register infection attempts by this family, and do not rule out its return to the top.

Number of unique users attacked by the Hqwar mobile dropper in 2019 (download)

In ninth position is another dropper, this time from the Lezok family: Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Lezok.p (1.76%). A notable difference between this Trojan and Hqwar is that the malware penetrates the device before it arrives at the store. This is evidenced by KSN statistics showing that the Trojan was most often detected in the system directory under the names PhoneServer, GeocodeService, and similar.

Path to the detected threat Number of unique users attacked
1 /system/priv-app/PhoneServer/ 49,688
2 /system/priv-app/GeocodeService/ 9747
3 /system/priv-app/Helper/ 6784
4 /system/priv-app/com.android.telephone/ 5030
5 /system/priv-app/ 1396
6 /system/priv-app/CallerIdSearch/ 1343

When the device is turned on, Lezok dumps its payload into the system; it does so even if the victim deletes the dumped files using regular OS tools or resets the device to the factory settings. The trick is that the Trojan forms part of the factory firmware and can reload (restore) the deleted files.

The final Trojan worthy of attention is Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a (1.56%), which finished eleventh in the rankings. Despite claims to the contrary, it can be removed. However, the infected system contains another Trojan that installs a helper app, which cannot be removed that easily. According to KSN statistics, members of the Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Triada and Trojan.AndroidOS.Dvmap families can act as delivery vehicles for the helper. After the victim removes the helper, a member of one of these two families loads and reinstalls it.

Mobile banking Trojans

In 2019, we detected 69,777 installation packages for mobile banking Trojans, which is half last year’s figure. However, the share of banking Trojans out of all detected threats grew slightly as a consequence of the declining activity of other classes and families of mobile malware.

Number of installation packages of mobile banking Trojans detected by Kaspersky in 2019 (download)

The number of detected installation packages for banking Trojans as well as the number of attacks were influenced by the campaign to distribute the Asacub Trojan, whose activity has plummeted starting in April 2019.

Number of attacks by mobile banking Trojans in 2018–2019 (download)

It is worth noting that the average number of attacks over the year was approximately 270,000 per month.

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by banking Trojans

Country %*
1 Russia 0.72
2 South Africa 0.66
3 Australia 0.59
4 Spain 0.29
5 Tajikistan 0.21
6 Turkey 0.20
7 USA 0.18
8 Italy 0.17
9 Ukraine 0.17
10 Armenia 0.16

*Share of users attacked by mobile bankers out of all attacked users

Russia (0.72%) has headed our Top 10 for three consecutive years: many different Trojan families are focused on stealing credentials from Russian banking apps. These Trojans operate in other countries as well. Thus, Asacub is the number one threat in Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Armenia, while the Svpeng family of Trojans is active in Russia and the US.

In South Africa (0.66%), the most common Trojan was Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.dx, accounting for 95% of all users attacked by banking threats.

The most widespread Trojan in Australia (0.59%) was Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.eq (77% of all users attacked by banking threats).

In Spain (0.29%), banking malware from the Cebruser and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.ep families are popular with cybercriminals (49% and 22% of all users attacked by banking threats, respectively).

Top 10 families of mobile bankers in 2019

Family %*
1 Asacub 44.40
2 Svpeng 22.40
3 Agent 19.06
4 Faketoken 12.02
5 Hqwar 3.75
6 Anubis 2.72
7 Marcher 2.07
8 Rotexy 1.46
9 Gugi 1.34
10 Regon 1.01

*Share of users attacked by this family of mobile bankers out of all users attacked by mobile banking Trojans

Mobile ransomware Trojans

In 2019, we detected 68,362 installation packages for ransomware Trojans, which is 8,186 more than in the previous year. However, we observed a decline in the generation of new ransomware packages throughout 2019. The minimum was recorded in December.

Number of new installation packages for mobile banking Trojans in Q1–Q4 2019 (download)

A similar picture is seen for attacked users. Whereas in early 2019, the number of attacked users peaked at 12,004, by the end of the year, the figure had decreased 2.6 times.

Number of users attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans in 2018–2019 (download)

Countries by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware in 2019 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by ransomware Trojans

Country* %**
1 USA 2.03
2 Kazakhstan 0.56
3 Iran 0.37
4 Mexico 0.11
5 Saudi Arabia 0.10
6 Pakistan 0.10
7 Canada 0.10
8 Italy 0.09
9 Indonesia 0.08
10 Australia 0.06

*Excluded from the rating are countries with fewer than 25,000 active users of Kaspersky mobile solutions in the reporting period.
**Unique users attacked by mobile ransomware in the country as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile solutions in the country.

For the third year in a row, first place by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware went to the US (2.03%). Same as last year, the Svpeng ransomware family was the most commonly encountered in the country. It was also the most widespread in Iran (0.37%).

The situation in Kazakhstan (0.56%) was unchanged: the country still ranks second, and the most prevalent threat there remains the Rkor family.

Conclusion

The year 2019 saw the appearance of several highly sophisticated mobile banking threats, in particular, malware that can interfere with the normal operation of banking apps. The danger they pose cannot be overstated, because they cause direct losses to the victim. It is highly likely that this trend will continue into 2020, and we will see more such high-tech banking Trojans.

Also in 2019, attacks involving the use of mobile stalkerware became more frequent, the purpose being to monitor and collect information about the victim. In terms of sophistication, stalkerware is keeping pace with its malware cousins. It is quite likely that 2020 will see an increase in the number of such threats, with a corresponding rise in the number of attacked users.

Judging by our statistics, adware is gaining ever more popularity among cybercriminals. In all likelihood, going forward we will encounter new members of this class of threats, with the worst-case scenario involving adware modules pre-installed on victims’ devices.


Temp Mails (https://tempemail.co/) is a new free temporary email addresses service. This service provide you random 10 minutes emails addresses. It is also known by names like: temporary mail, disposable mail, throwaway email, one time mail, anonymous email address… All emails received by Tempmail servers are displayed automatically in your online browser inbox.

Mobile malware evolution 2019 | Securelist – 10 minute mail

These statistics are based on detection verdicts of Kaspersky products received from users who consented to provide statistical data.

Figures of the year

In 2019, Kaspersky mobile products and technologies detected:

  • 3,503,952 malicious installation packages.
  • 69,777 new mobile banking Trojans.
  • 68,362 new mobile ransomware Trojans.

In summing up 2019, two trends in particular stick out:

  • Attacks on users’ personal data became more frequent.
  • Detections of Trojans on the most popular application marketplaces became more frequent.

This report discusses each in more detail below, with examples and statistics.

Attacks on personal data: stalkerware

Over the past year, the number of attacks on the personal data of mobile device users increased by half: from 40,386 unique users in 2018 to 67,500 in 2019. This is not about classic spyware or Trojans, but so-called stalkerware.

Number of unique users attacked by stalkerware in 2018–2019 (download)

Stalkerware can be divided into two major categories:

  • Trackers.
  • Full-fledged tracking apps.

The creators of trackers generally focus on two main features: tracking victims’ coordinates and intercepting text messages. Until recently, many such apps, mostly free, were available on the official Google Play marketplace. After Google Play changed its policy in late 2018, most of them were removed from the store, and most developers pulled support for their products. However, such trackers can still be found on their developers’ and third-party sites.

If such an app gets onto a device, messages and data about the user’s location become accessible to third parties. These third parties are not necessarily only those tracking the user: the client-server interaction of some services ignores even the minimum security requirements, allowing anyone to gain access to the accumulated data.

The situation of full-fledged stalkerware is somewhat different: there are no such apps on Google Play, but they are actively supported by developers. These tend to be commercial solutions with extensive spying capabilities. They can harvest almost any data on a compromised device: photos (both entire archives and individual pictures, for example, taken at a certain location), phone calls, texts, location information, screen taps (keylogging), and so on.

Screenshot from the site of a stalkerware app developer showing the capabilities of the software

Many apps exploit root privileges to extract messaging history from protected storage in social networking and instant messaging applications. If it cannot gain the required access, the stalkerware can take screenshots, log screen taps and even extract the text of incoming and outgoing messages from the windows of popular services using the Accessibility feature. One example is the commercial spyware app Monitor Minor.

Screenshot from the site of a stalkerware app developer showing the software’s ability to intercept data from social networks and messengers

The developers of the commercial spyware FinSpy went one step further by adding a feature to intercept correspondence in secure messengers, such as Signal, Threema and others. To ensure interception, the app independently obtains root privileges by exploiting the vulnerability CVE-2016-5195, aka “Dirty Cow”. The expectation is that the victim is using an old device with an outdated operating system kernel in which the exploit can escalate privileges to root.

It is worth noting that the user base of messaging apps includes hundreds of millions. Classic calls and texts are being used less and less, and communication — be it text messages or voice/video calls — is gradually moving to instant messaging applications. Hence the rising interest in data stored in such apps.

Attacks on personal data: advertising apps

In 2019, we observed a significant increase in the number of adware threats, one purpose being to harvest personal data on mobile devices.

The statistics show that the number of users attacked by adware in 2019 is roughly unchanged from 2018.

Number of users attacked by adware in 2018 and 2019 (download)

At the same time, the number of detected adware installation packages almost doubled from 2018.

Number of detected adware installation packages in 2018 and 2019. (download)

These indicators typically correlate, but not in the case of adware. This can be explained by several factors:

  • Adware installation packages are generated automatically and spread literally everywhere, but for some reason do not reach the target audience. It is possible that they get detected immediately after being generated and cannot propagate further.
  • Often, such apps contain nothing useful — just an adware module; so the victim immediately deletes them, assuming that they allow removing themselves.

Nevertheless, it is the second successive year that adware has appeared in our Top 3 detected threats. KSN statistics confirm it to be one of the most common types of threats: four places in our Top 10 mobile threats by number of users attacked in 2019 are reserved for adware-class apps, with one member of the family, HiddenAd, taking the third.

Вердикт %*
1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 35,83
2 Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh 8,30
3 AdWare.AndroidOS.HiddenAd.et 4,60
4 AdWare.AndroidOS.Agent.f 4,05
5 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch 3,89
6 DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML 3,85
7 AdWare.AndroidOS.HiddenAd.fc 3,73
8 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.cr 2,49
9 AdWare.AndroidOS.MobiDash.ap 2,42
10 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.n 1,84

*Share of all users attacked by this type of malware in the total number of users attacked.

In 2019, mobile adware developers not only generated tens of thousands of packages, but also technically enhanced their products, in particular through the addition of techniques to bypass operating system restrictions.

For example, Android imposes certain restrictions on background operation of applications for battery-saving reasons. This negatively impacts the operation of various threats, including adware apps that like to lurk in the background and wait for, say, a new banner to arrive from C&C. The introduction of such restrictions made it impossible for apps to show ads outside the context of their own window, thus starving most adware of oxygen.

The creators of the KeepMusic adware family found a smart workaround. To bypass the restrictions, their software does not request permissions like, for example, malware does. Instead, the program starts looping an MP3 file that plays silence. The operating system decides that the music player is running, and does not terminate the KeepMusic background process. As a result, the adware can request a banner from the server and display it any time.

Attacks on personal data: exploiting access to Accessibility

The year 2019 saw the appearance of the first specimen of mobile financial malware (Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Gustuff.a), featuring enhanced autonomy. Until then, two methods had been used to steal money from bank accounts:

  • Via SMS banking on the victim end. This is an autonomous theft technique that requires only information about the transfer recipient. This data the bot can either store in its body or receive as a command from C&C. The Trojan infects the device and sends a text with a transfer request to a special bank phone number. The bank then automatically transfers the funds to the recipient from the device owner’s account. Due to the increase in such theft, limits on mobile transfers have been tightened, so this attack vector has been relegated to backup.
  • By stealing online banking credentials. This has been the dominant method in recent years. Cybercriminals display a phishing window on the victim’s device that mimics the bank’s login page and reels in the victim’s credentials. In this case, the cybercriminals need to carry out the transaction themselves, using the app on their own mobile device or a browser. It is possible that the bank’s anti-fraud systems can detect the abnormal activity and block it, leaving the attackers empty-handed even if the victim’s device is infected.

In 2019, cybercriminals mastered a third method: stealing by manipulating banking apps. First, the victim is persuaded to run the app and sign in, for example, using a fake push notification supposedly from the bank. Tapping the notification does indeed open the banking app, which the attackers, using Accessibility, gain full control over, enabling them to fill out forms, tap buttons, etc. Moreover, the bot operator does not need to do anything, because the malware performs all actions required. Such transactions are trusted by banks, and the maximum transfer amount can exceed the limits of SMS banking by an order of magnitude. As a result, the cybercriminals can clean out the account in one go.

Stealing funds from bank accounts is just one malicious use of Accessibility. In effect, any malware with these permissions can control all on-screen processes, while any Android app is basically a visual representation of buttons, data entry forms, information display, and so on. Even if developers implement their own control elements, such as a slider that needs to be moved at a certain speed, this too can be done using Accessibility commands. Thus, cybercriminals have tremendous leeway to create what are perhaps the most dangerous classes of mobile malware: spyware, banking Trojans and ransomware Trojans.

The misuse of the Accessibility features poses a serious threat to users’ personal data. Where previously cybercriminals had to overlay phishing windows and request a bunch of permissions in order to steal personal information, now victims themselves output all necessary data to the screen or enter it in forms, where it can be easily gleaned. And if the malware needs more, it can open the Settings section by itself, tap a few buttons, and obtain the necessary permissions.

Slipping malware into the main Android app store delivers much better results than social engineering victims into installing apps from third-party sources. In addition, this approach enables attackers to:

  • Bypass SafetyNet, Android’s built-in antivirus protection. If a user downloads an app from Google Play, the likelihood that it will be installed without additional requests — for example, to disable the built-in protection under an imaginary pretext — is very high. The only thing that can protect the user from infection in that situation is a third-party security solution.
  • Overcome psychological barriers. Official app stores enjoy far greater trust than third-party “markets,” and act as store windows of sorts that can be used for distributing software much more efficiently.
  • Target victims without unnecessary spending. Google Play can be used to host fakes that visually mimic, say, popular banking apps. This was the distribution vector used in a spate of attacks on mobile users in Brazil: we detected numerous malicious programs on Google Play under the guise of mobile apps for Brazilian banks.

In addition to malicious doppelgangers, cybercriminals deployed several other tricks to maximize device infection rates:

  • The case of CamScanner showed that an app’s legitimate behavior can be supplemented with malicious functions by updating its code for handling advertising. This could be described as the most sophisticated attack vector, since its success depends on a large number of factors, including the user base of the host app, the developer’s trust in third-party advertising code and the type of malicious activity.
  • Another example demonstrates that attackers sometimes upload to Google Play fairly well-behaved apps from popular user categories. In this case, it was photo editors.
  • The most depressing case involves a Trojan from the Joker family, of which we have found many samples on Google Play, and still are. Deploying the tactic of mass posting, cybercriminals uploaded apps under all kinds of guises: from wallpaper-changing tools and security solutions to popular games. In some cases, the Trojan scored hundreds of thousands of downloads. No other attack vector can reach this kind of audience within such a short space of time.

The good news is that Google and the antivirus industry have teamed up to fight threats on the site. This approach should prevent most malware from penetrating the official Google app store.

Statistics

In 2019, we discovered 3,503,952 mobile malicious installation packages, which is 1,817,190 less than in the previous year. We have not detected so few mobile threats since 2015.

Number of mobile malicious installation packages for Android in 2015–2019 (download)

For three consecutive years, we have seen an overall decline in the number of mobile threats distributed as installation packages. The picture largely depends on specific cybercriminal campaigns: some have become less active, others have completely ceased, and new players have yet to gain momentum.

The situation is similar with the number of attacks using mobile threats: whereas in 2018 we observed a total of 116.5 million attacks, in 2019 the figure was down to 80 million.

Number of attacks defeated by Kaspersky mobile solutions in 2018–2019 (download)

The figures were back to the year before, before the start of the Asacub banking Trojan epidemic.

Since the number of attacks correlates with the number of users attacked, we observed a similar picture for this indicator.

Number of users attacked by mobile malware in 2018–2019 (download)

Geography of attacked users in 2019 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by mobile malware:

Country* %**
Iran 60.64
Pakistan 44.43
Bangladesh 43.17
Algeria 40.20
India 37.98
Indonesia 35.12
Nigeria 33.16
Tanzania 28.51
Saudi Arabia 27.94
Malaysia 27.36

*Excluded from the rankings are countries with fewer than 25,000 active users of Kaspersky mobile security solutions in the reporting period.
**Unique users attacked in the country as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile security solutions in the country.

In 2019, Iran (60.64%) again topped the list for the third year in a row. The most common threats in that country come from adware and potentially unwanted software: Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.bn, AdWare.AndroidOS.Agent.fa, and RiskTool.AndroidOS.Dnotua.yfe.

Pakistan (44.43%) climbed from seventh to second place, mainly on the back of a rise in the number of users attacked by adware. The largest contribution was made by members of the AdWare.AndroidOS.HiddenAd family. A similar picture can be seen in Bangladesh (43.17%), whose share has grown due to the same adware families.

Types of mobile threats

Distribution of new mobile threats by type in 2018 and 2019 (download)

In 2019, the share of RiskTool-class threats decreased by 20 p.p. (32.46%). We believe the main reason to be the sharp drop in the generation of threats from the SMSreg family. A characteristic feature of this family is payments via SMS: for example, money transfers or subscriptions to mobile services. Moreover, the user is not explicitly informed of the payment or money being charged to their mobile account. Whereas in 2018, we picked up 1,970,742 SMSreg installation packages, the number decreased by an order of magnitude to 193,043 in 2019. At the same time, far from declining, the number of packages of other members of this class of threats increased noticeably.

Name of family %*
1 Agent 27.48
2 SMSreg 16.89
3 Dnotua 13.83
4 Wapron 13.73
5 SmsSend 9.15
6 Resharer 4.62
7 SmsPay 3.55
8 PornVideo 2.51
9 Robtes 1.23
10 Yoga 1.03

*Share of packages of this family in the total number of riskware-class packages detected in 2019.

Skymobi and Paccy dropped out of the Top 10 families of potentially unwanted software; the number of installation packages of these families detected in 2019 decreased tenfold. Their creators likely minimized or even ceased their development and distribution. However, a new player appeared: the Resharer family (4.62%), which ranked sixth. This family is noted for its self-propagation through posting information about itself on various sites and mailing it to the victim’s contacts.

Adware demonstrated the most impressive growth, up by 14 p.p. The main source of this growth was HiddenAd (26.81%); the number of installation packages of this family increased by two orders of magnitude against 2018.

Name of family %*
1 HiddenAd 26.81
2 MobiDash 20.45
3 Ewind 16.34
4 Agent 15.27
5 Dnotua 5.51
6 Kuguo 1.36
7 Dowgin 1.28
8 Triada 1.20
9 Feiad 1.01
10 Frupi 0.94

*Share of packages of this family in the total number of adware-class packages detected in 2019.

Significant growth also came from the MobiDash (20.45%) and Ewind (16.34%) families. Meanwhile, the Agent family (15.27%), which held a leading position in 2018, dropped to fourth place.

Compared to 2018, the number of mobile Trojans detected decreased sharply. A downward trend has been observed for two consecutive years now, yet droppers remain one of the most numerous malware classes. The Hqwar family showed the most notable decrease: down from 141,000 packages in 2018 to 22,000 in 2019. At the same time, 2019 saw the debut of the Ingopack family: we detected 115,654 samples of this dropper.

Meanwhile, the share of Trojan-class threats rose by 6 p.p., with the two most numerous malware families of this class being Boogr and Hiddapp. The Boogr family contains various Trojans that have been detected using machine-learning (ML) technology. A feature of the Hiddapp family is that it hides its icon in the list of installed apps while continuing to run in the background.

The share of mobile ransomware Trojans slightly increased. The Top 3 families of this class of threats remained the same as in 2018: Svpeng, Congur, and Fusob — in that order.

Top 20 mobile malware programs

The following malware rankings omit potentially unwanted software, such as RiskTool and AdWare.

Verdict %*
1 DangerousObject.Multi.Generic 49.15
2 Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh 10.95
3 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.ch 5.19
4 DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML 5.08
5 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.n 3.45
6 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.cr 3.28
7 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.snt 2.35
8 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.bb 2.10
9 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Lezok.p 1.76
10 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.a 1.66
11 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a 1.65
12 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng.ak 1.60
13 Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Necro.b 1.59
14 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.gen 1.50
15 Exploit.AndroidOS.Lotoor.be 1.46
16 Trojan.AndroidOS.Hiddapp.cf 1.35
17 Trojan.AndroidOS.Dvmap.a 1.33
18 Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.ep 1.31
19 Trojan.AndroidOS.Agent.rt 1.28
20 Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Tiny.d 1.14

*Share of users attacked by this type of malware out of all attacked users

As we wrap up the year 2019, first place in our Top 20 mobile malware, as in previous years, goes to the verdict DangerousObject.Multi.Generic (49.15%), which we use for malware detected with cloud technology. The verdict is applied where the antivirus databases still have no signatures or heuristics for malware detection. This way, the most recent malware is uncovered.

In second place came the verdict Trojan.AndroidOS.Boogr.gsh (10.95%). This verdict is assigned to files recognized as malicious by our ML-based system. Another result of this system’s work is objects with the verdict DangerousObject.AndroidOS.GenericML (5.08%, fourth place in the rating). This verdict is assigned to files whose structure is identical to that of malicious files.

Third, sixth, and sixteenth places were taken by members of the Hiddapp family. We assign this verdict to any app that hides its icon in the list of apps immediately after starting. Subsequent actions of such apps may be anything from downloading or dropping other apps to displaying ads.

Fifth and thirteenth places went to members of the Necro family of droppers and loaders. In both threat classes, Necro members did not make it into the Top 10 by number of detected files. Even the weakened Hwar family of droppers strongly outperformed Necro by number of generated objects. That said, users often encountered Necro members due to the family’s penetration of Google Play.

Seventh and tenth places went to the Asacub family of banking Trojans. Whereas at the start of the year, the Trojan’s operators were still actively spreading the malware, starting in March 2019, we noticed a drop in this family’s activity.

Number of unique users attacked by the Asacub mobile banking Trojan in 2019 (download)

Eighth and fourteenth places were reserved for droppers in the Hqwar family. Their activity dropped significantly from 80,000 attacked users in 2018 to 28,000 in 2019. However, we continue to register infection attempts by this family, and do not rule out its return to the top.

Number of unique users attacked by the Hqwar mobile dropper in 2019 (download)

In ninth position is another dropper, this time from the Lezok family: Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Lezok.p (1.76%). A notable difference between this Trojan and Hqwar is that the malware penetrates the device before it arrives at the store. This is evidenced by KSN statistics showing that the Trojan was most often detected in the system directory under the names PhoneServer, GeocodeService, and similar.

Path to the detected threat Number of unique users attacked
1 /system/priv-app/PhoneServer/ 49,688
2 /system/priv-app/GeocodeService/ 9747
3 /system/priv-app/Helper/ 6784
4 /system/priv-app/com.android.telephone/ 5030
5 /system/priv-app/ 1396
6 /system/priv-app/CallerIdSearch/ 1343

When the device is turned on, Lezok dumps its payload into the system; it does so even if the victim deletes the dumped files using regular OS tools or resets the device to the factory settings. The trick is that the Trojan forms part of the factory firmware and can reload (restore) the deleted files.

The final Trojan worthy of attention is Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Helper.a (1.56%), which finished eleventh in the rankings. Despite claims to the contrary, it can be removed. However, the infected system contains another Trojan that installs a helper app, which cannot be removed that easily. According to KSN statistics, members of the Trojan-Downloader.AndroidOS.Triada and Trojan.AndroidOS.Dvmap families can act as delivery vehicles for the helper. After the victim removes the helper, a member of one of these two families loads and reinstalls it.

Mobile banking Trojans

In 2019, we detected 69,777 installation packages for mobile banking Trojans, which is half last year’s figure. However, the share of banking Trojans out of all detected threats grew slightly as a consequence of the declining activity of other classes and families of mobile malware.

Number of installation packages of mobile banking Trojans detected by Kaspersky in 2019 (download)

The number of detected installation packages for banking Trojans as well as the number of attacks were influenced by the campaign to distribute the Asacub Trojan, whose activity has plummeted starting in April 2019.

Number of attacks by mobile banking Trojans in 2018–2019 (download)

It is worth noting that the average number of attacks over the year was approximately 270,000 per month.

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by banking Trojans

Country %*
1 Russia 0.72
2 South Africa 0.66
3 Australia 0.59
4 Spain 0.29
5 Tajikistan 0.21
6 Turkey 0.20
7 USA 0.18
8 Italy 0.17
9 Ukraine 0.17
10 Armenia 0.16

*Share of users attacked by mobile bankers out of all attacked users

Russia (0.72%) has headed our Top 10 for three consecutive years: many different Trojan families are focused on stealing credentials from Russian banking apps. These Trojans operate in other countries as well. Thus, Asacub is the number one threat in Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Armenia, while the Svpeng family of Trojans is active in Russia and the US.

In South Africa (0.66%), the most common Trojan was Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.dx, accounting for 95% of all users attacked by banking threats.

The most widespread Trojan in Australia (0.59%) was Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.eq (77% of all users attacked by banking threats).

In Spain (0.29%), banking malware from the Cebruser and Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.ep families are popular with cybercriminals (49% and 22% of all users attacked by banking threats, respectively).

Top 10 families of mobile bankers in 2019

Family %*
1 Asacub 44.40
2 Svpeng 22.40
3 Agent 19.06
4 Faketoken 12.02
5 Hqwar 3.75
6 Anubis 2.72
7 Marcher 2.07
8 Rotexy 1.46
9 Gugi 1.34
10 Regon 1.01

*Share of users attacked by this family of mobile bankers out of all users attacked by mobile banking Trojans

Mobile ransomware Trojans

In 2019, we detected 68,362 installation packages for ransomware Trojans, which is 8,186 more than in the previous year. However, we observed a decline in the generation of new ransomware packages throughout 2019. The minimum was recorded in December.

Number of new installation packages for mobile banking Trojans in Q1–Q4 2019 (download)

A similar picture is seen for attacked users. Whereas in early 2019, the number of attacked users peaked at 12,004, by the end of the year, the figure had decreased 2.6 times.

Number of users attacked by mobile ransomware Trojans in 2018–2019 (download)

Countries by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware in 2019 (download)

Top 10 countries by share of users attacked by ransomware Trojans

Country* %**
1 USA 2.03
2 Kazakhstan 0.56
3 Iran 0.37
4 Mexico 0.11
5 Saudi Arabia 0.10
6 Pakistan 0.10
7 Canada 0.10
8 Italy 0.09
9 Indonesia 0.08
10 Australia 0.06

*Excluded from the rating are countries with fewer than 25,000 active users of Kaspersky mobile solutions in the reporting period.
**Unique users attacked by mobile ransomware in the country as a percentage of all users of Kaspersky mobile solutions in the country.

For the third year in a row, first place by share of users attacked by mobile ransomware went to the US (2.03%). Same as last year, the Svpeng ransomware family was the most commonly encountered in the country. It was also the most widespread in Iran (0.37%).

The situation in Kazakhstan (0.56%) was unchanged: the country still ranks second, and the most prevalent threat there remains the Rkor family.

Conclusion

The year 2019 saw the appearance of several highly sophisticated mobile banking threats, in particular, malware that can interfere with the normal operation of banking apps. The danger they pose cannot be overstated, because they cause direct losses to the victim. It is highly likely that this trend will continue into 2020, and we will see more such high-tech banking Trojans.

Also in 2019, attacks involving the use of mobile stalkerware became more frequent, the purpose being to monitor and collect information about the victim. In terms of sophistication, stalkerware is keeping pace with its malware cousins. It is quite likely that 2020 will see an increase in the number of such threats, with a corresponding rise in the number of attacked users.

Judging by our statistics, adware is gaining ever more popularity among cybercriminals. In all likelihood, going forward we will encounter new members of this class of threats, with the worst-case scenario involving adware modules pre-installed on victims’ devices.


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