The deep access granted to banking Trojan MazarBOT for Android shows exactly why app development and maintenance fall far short of the sophisticated threats they are posed with.
That’s according to Jan Vidar Krey, Head of Development at Norwegian app security firm Promon, who found the most alarming part of the malware was not its ability to penetrate and compromise an Android device, but that the existence of this strain was not protected against since it was first identified on the Dark Web several months ago.
“Android’s recent history has been marked by its inability to withstand malware attacks so this single attack does not come as a surprise, even if the Trojan’s ability to stealthily fly under the radar of most Android antivirus software may come as a shock. In reality, external antivirus software is ineffective as it is able to understand only a matrix of existing threats and overlooks targeted, sophisticated threats.”
The malware is packaged in hyperlinked text messages, which if followed could install TOR software and introduce man-in-the-middle attacks by sending information back to a proxy server. All device operations can then be monitored, messages can be sent to premium rate numbers and two-factor authentication codes can be accessed and used to circumvent online banking protection.
Krey commented: “With the ability to connect to different networks, access different platforms and download apps from different developers, Android devices are extremely flexible in what they can do. However, they are porous to external intrusions as a result of this ease-of-access. Once malware has cracked the device’s root, it can perform a frightening number of actions.
“Unfortunately, Android security developers have failed to keep up with the threat of Android malware’s growing mutations, which, by becoming increasingly complex, have outgrown traditional means of protection: antivirus and patching. These methods serve as poorly timed reactions to a specific vulnerability, rather than a proactive step to protect the integrity of the device as a whole. Dealing with threats as they occur is crucial to ensuring adequate security for your mobile device.”
Krey advised: “While methods such as two-factor authentication can help to an extent, if the malware has been designed to target banking applications – as it is suspected MazarBOT has – there’s no second line of defence. Instead of using crutches such as antivirus or two-factor, it is vital that security is developed at the level of the application itself.
“As it stands, the responsibility for applications has been diffusely passed between Android developers, app developers and, finally, the end user. Time and again, this dynamic has been proven ineffective and a rethink of traditional means of protecting Android applications is long, long overdue,” Krey concluded.