With one update, this malicious Android app hijacked millions of devices – ZDNet

With a single replace, a preferred barcode scanner app on Google Play reworked into malware and was capable of hijack as much as 10 million gadgets. 

Lavabird Ltd.’s Barcode Scanner was an Android app that had been out there on Google’s official app repository for years. The app, accounting for over 10 million installs, supplied a QR code reader and a barcode generator —  a helpful utility for cell gadgets. 

The cell software seemed to be reputable, reliable software program, with many customers having put in the app years in the past with none issues — till not too long ago. 

In response to Malwarebytes, customers not too long ago began to complain of adverts showing unexpectedly on their Android gadgets. It’s typically the case that undesirable packages, adverts, and malvertising are related with new app installations, however on this instance, customers reported that they’d not put in something not too long ago. 

Upon investigation, the researchers pinpointed Barcode Scanner because the perpetrator. 


A software program replace issued on roughly December 4, 2020, modified the features of the app to push promoting with out warning. Whereas many builders implement adverts of their software program so as to have the ability to provide free variations — and paid-for apps merely don’t show adverts — lately, the shift of apps from helpful sources to adware in a single day is changing into extra frequent. 

“Advert SDKs can come from varied third-party firms and supply a income for the app developer. It is a win-win scenario for everybody,” Malwarebytes famous. “Customers get a free app, whereas the app builders and the advert SDK builders receives a commission. However each infrequently, an advert SDK firm can change one thing on their finish and adverts can begin getting a bit aggressive.”

Generally, ‘aggressive’ promoting practices might be the fault of SDK third-parties — however this was not the case in the case of Barcode Scanner. As a substitute, the researchers say that malicious code was pushed within the December replace and was closely hid to keep away from detection.

The replace was additionally signed with the identical safety certificates utilized in previous, clear variations of the Android software. 

Malwarebytes reported its findings to Google and the tech big has now pulled the app from Google Play. Nonetheless, this does not imply that the app will vanish from impacted gadgets, and so customers have to manually uninstall the now-malicious app. 

Reworking clear SDKs into malicious packages is just one methodology employed to keep away from Google Play safety, with time checks, lengthy show instances, the compromise of open supply libraries utilized by an app, and dynamic loading additionally cited as potential methods for attackers to compromise your cell gadget.

One other attention-grabbing methodology, noticed by Development Micro, is the implementation of a movement sensor examine. In 2019, Android utility apps have been discovered to include the Anubis banking Trojan which might solely deploy as soon as a person moved their handset. 

ZDNet has reached out to the developer and can replace if we hear again. 

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