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Fake Mobile Apps

Abuse in the Mobile market has increased over the last couple of years. With the number of smart phones in circulation and with the technology forever growing and improving, hackers have found ways to use this technology to gather information and infect phones with malicious content.

There has been an increase in recent years of third party mobile application stores popping up all over the internet. These stores do have their legitimate reasons, however they are also being used by hackers to spread fake apps, or have become a playground for hackers to release their malicious mobile applications. There are currently a number of different types of abuse that can occur.

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Hackers have been setting up mobile application clones, which is a direct copy of a legitimate application; however it has been put on a third party application store to generate downloads for the user.

There are times when the hacker will modify the code for the mobile application and add another layer to the application that inserts advertising into the mobile application. While the legitimate version might not have any advertising, this version of the application will use the traffic and the advertising to generate revenue for the user that uploaded the application.

The final version of a malicious mobile application is when the application is modified to include malicious code that infects the users phone. The hacker will add some malware into the mobile application that when installed will infect the users phone with malicious code that will perform a set of predetermined instructions on the users phone.

Types of Abuse

The most common type of abuse for a mobile application is an unauthorised application that has been hosted on either legitimate stores or 3rd party application stores. This happens when the legitimate application is downloaded and then uploaded again by a someone that is not associated with the business, or that does not have the right to register an application on behalf of that business. Three are also a number of sub-types that fall under this type of abuse, which you can see below.

The most common type of malware mobile application, is when a legitimate mobile application is download, modified to include some malicious code and is then uploaded to either a legitimate application store or a 3rd party application store. Users then download the application assuming it is legitimate and then infected with the malicious code.

The next type of abuse is similar to malware, however rather than inserting malicious code the application is updated to include advertising. This means that when the user is using the application they will be offered advertising that would not have appeared in the original application. Adware applications are used to generate revenue for the person/people that uploaded the application. They are hoping that a large portion of people will install the application because it is highly desirable.

Mobile Application Stores

AndroidTM 1 is the legitimate store for android users. Android has tight quality control over the applications that go into their store, for this reason it is unlikely that applications found in this store will be malicious in nature. The types of abuse that will be found here are unauthorised applications, or possibly adware applications.

iTunes® 2 is the legitimate store for apple users. They too also have a strict quality assurance program with applications that are uploaded to their store. This prevents applications from being uploaded that might be malicious, so abuse in iTunes will generally consist of unauthorised applications or adware applications.

3rd party application stores have begun to pop up all over the internet. 3rd party stores generally don’t charge the same commissions that the legitimate stores do. This has led to explosion of people adding applications to these stores to avoid the commissions, however due these stores security and checking is a little more relaxed. Because of this, they will generally see more malicious applications then the legitimate stores. Ranging from malware mobile applications to unauthorised applications.

1 Android is a trademark of Google Inc.

2 iTunes is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.