Billing fraud apps can disable Android Wi-Fi and intercept text messages


Android malware builders are stepping up their billing fraud recreation with apps that disable Wi-Fi connections, surreptitiously subscribe customers to expensive wi-fi companies, and intercept textual content messages, all in a bid to gather hefty charges from unsuspecting customers, Microsoft mentioned on Friday.

This menace class has been a truth of life on the Android platform for years, as exemplified by a household of malware often called Joker, which has contaminated hundreds of thousands of telephones since 2016. Regardless of consciousness of the issue, little consideration has been paid to the strategies that such “toll fraud” malware makes use of. Enter Microsoft, which has revealed a technical deep dive on the issue.

The billing mechanism abused in one of these fraud is WAP, brief for wi-fi software protocol, which offers a way of accessing info over a cell community. Cell phone customers can subscribe to such companies by visiting a service supplier’s webpage whereas their units are linked to mobile service, then clicking a button. In some circumstances, the service will reply by texting a one-time password (OTP) to the telephone and requiring the person to ship it again to be able to confirm the subscription request. The method seems to be like this:


The objective of the malicious apps is to subscribe contaminated telephones to those WAP companies routinely, with out the discover or consent of the proprietor. Microsoft mentioned that malicious Android apps its researchers have analyzed obtain this objective by following these steps:

  1. Disable the Wi-Fi connection or anticipate the person to modify to a cell community
  2. Silently navigate to the subscription web page
  3. Auto-click the subscription button
  4. Intercept the OTP (if relevant)
  5. Ship the OTP to the service supplier (if relevant)
  6. Cancel the SMS notifications (if relevant)

Malware builders have varied methods to drive a telephone to make use of a mobile connection even when it’s linked to Wi-Fi. On units operating Android 9 or earlier, the builders can invoke the setWifiEnabled technique of the WifiManager class. For variations 10 and above, builders can use the requestNetwork operate of the ConnectivityManager class. Finally, telephones will load knowledge completely over the mobile community, as demonstrated on this picture:


As soon as a telephone makes use of the mobile community for knowledge transmission, the malicious app surreptitiously opens a browser within the background, navigates to the WAP subscription web page, and clicks a subscribe button. Confirming the subscription might be difficult as a result of affirmation prompts can come by SMS, HTTP, or USSD protocols. Microsoft lays out particular strategies that malware builders can use to bypass every kind of affirmation. The Microsoft put up then goes on to elucidate how the malware suppresses periodic messages that the subscription service might ship the person to remind them of their subscription.

“By subscribing customers to premium companies, this malware can result in victims receiving vital cell invoice prices,” Microsoft researchers wrote. “Affected units even have elevated threat as a result of this menace manages to evade detection and may obtain a excessive variety of installations earlier than a single variant will get eliminated.”

Google actively bars apps from its Play market when it detects indicators of fraud or malice or when it receives reviews of malicious apps from third events. Whereas Google usually doesn’t take away malicious apps till after they’ve contaminated hundreds of thousands of customers, apps downloaded from Play are usually considered extra reliable than apps from third-party markets.

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