How to get rid of Cerberus banking trojan?

Also Known As: Cerberus banking malware
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Moderate
Damage level: Severe

Cerberus malware removal guide

What is Cerberus?

Cerberus is an Android banking Trojan which can be rented out on hacker forums. It has been created in year 2019 and is used to steal various sensitive, confidential information. Also, Cerberus can be used to send various commands to user's device and perform various actions. Typically, cyber criminals behind banking Trojans like Cerberus attempt to get access to information that could be misused to generate revenue.

cerberus banking trojan fake flash update

Cerberus is disguised as some Flash Player application or service which does not appear in the application drawer. It is designed to deceive users into providing increased privileges through the Accessibility Service. If those privileges are granted, then Cerberus gets connected to botnet and can receive commands from Command & Control (C2) server. Cyber criminals behind Cerberus can use it as a tool to perform various actions on victim's device. For example, use it as a keylogger, get the list of installed apps, access contacts (names and numbers), enable call forwarding to a particular number, display push notifications that, if clicked, would launch a particular app, start applications, delete them, send text messages, open addresses in WebView, lock screen, and some other tasks. Moreover, this banking Trojan is capable of performing overlay attacks that can be used to deceive victims into providing confidential information like credit card details, banking, email credentials, and other sensitive details. Simply said, Cerberus can operate as credentials stealer and credit card grabber. Confidential information gets stolen when victims enter their login credentials or credit card details on overlays that look like legitimate login, banking sites, and they get sent to attackers C2 server. Research shows that at the time Cerberus can be used to perform overlay attacks several French, U.S. and one Japanese banking apps, and fifteen non-banking applications.

Threat Summary:
Name Cerberus banking malware
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application, banking trojan.
Detection Names Avast (Android:Cerberus-L [Bank]), AVG (Android:Cerberus-L [Bank]), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Android/TrojanDropper.Agent.EQH), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Hqwar.bz), Full List (VirusTotal)
Related Domain coronavirus-informations[.]online, canada-alert-covid19[.]com
Symptoms The device is running slow, system settings are modified without user's permission, questionable applications appear, data and battery usage is increased significantly, browsers redirect to questionable websites, intrusive advertisements are delivered.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, deceptive applications, scam websites.
Damage Stolen personal information (private messages, logins/passwords, etc.), decreased device performance, battery is drained quickly, decreased Internet speed, huge data losses, monetary losses, stolen identity (malicious apps might abuse communication apps).
Removal To eliminate malware infections our security researchers recommend scanning your Android device with legitimate anti-malware software. We recommend Avast, Bitdefender, ESET or Malwarebytes.

Cyber criminals behind banking Trojans like Cerberus attempt to steal information that could be used to make fraudulent purchases, transactions, hijack various accounts, send fraudulent text messages, etc. Therefore, users who have their devices infected with Cerberus can become victims of identity theft, suffer monetary loss, experience serious online privacy issues, and other serious problems.

How did Cerberus infiltrate my device?

Research shows that Cereberus banking malware has recently been promoted through fake Flash Players (their installers) and coronavirus-related domains (malicious websites like coronavirus-informations[.]online). It is common that cyber criminals disguise malicious programs by using names of legitimate applications like Adobe Flash Player. Typically, they are promoted on unofficial, deceptive pages (in this case on pages with coronavirus-related domains) and have nothing to do with the official variants. It is worthwhile to mention that those deceptive pages are designed to trick visitors into using fake Adobe Flash Player (and other) installers by claiming that the installed version is out of date.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Software and files should be downloaded from official websites and through direct links. Other channels, such as unofficial, shady sites, third party downloaders, Peer-to-Peer networks, freeware download pages, free file hosting sites, etc., can be and often are used to proliferate malicious programs. Third party, fake installers are often used to spread malware too. Furthermore, attachments and website links in irrelevant emails that are received form unknown, suspicious addresses should not be opened without being sure that it is completely safe. Installed software must be updated and activated (if necessary) with tools and/or functions that are provided by official developers. Various 'cracking' tools (unofficial activation programs) can be designed to install malicious software. Besides, it is not legal to activate licensed programs with tools of this type. One more way to keep operating systems safe is to regularly scan them for threats with some reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software.

Another deceptive website (canada-alert-covid19[.]com) used to spread Cerberus trojan:

Malicious website used to spread Cerberus trojan

Yet another deceptive website (chromedownload[.]club) used to distribute Cerberus by presenting it as Google Chrome update:

Cerberus trojan-distributing website - chromedownload.club

Screenshot of a malicious website (bigbitwallet[.]com) promoting Cerberus banking trojan:

Cerberus trojan-spreading website - bigbitwallet.com

List of apps targeted by Cerberus malware (it may expand):

  • Bank of America Mobile Banking
  • Banque
  • Banque Populaire
  • Boursorama Banque
  • Capital One® Mobile
  • Chase Mobile
  • Connect for Hotmail
  • Fifth Third Mobile Banking
  • Gmail
  • imo free video calls and chat
  • ING
  • Instagram
  • L'Appli Société Générale
  • Ma Banque
  • Mail (Android)
  • Mes Comptes BNP Paribas
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Play Market
  • Snapchat
  • Telegram
  • Twitter
  • U.S. Bank - Inspired by customers
  • USAA Mobile
  • Uber
  • Viber
  • WeChat
  • Wells Fargo Mobile
  • WhatsApp
  • Yahoo Mail – Organized Email

Quick menu:

Delete browsing history from the Chrome web browser:

Deleting web browsing history from Chrome in Android operating system (step 1)

Tap the "Menu" button (three dots on the right-upper corner of the screen) and select "History" in the opened dropdown menu.

Deleting web browsing history from Chrome in Android operating system (step 2)

Tap "Clear browsing data", select "ADVANCED" tab, choose the time range and data types you want to delete and tap "Clear data".

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Disable browser notifications in the Chrome web browser:

Disabling browser notifications in the Chrome browser in Android operating system (step 1)

Tap the "Menu" button (three dots on the right-upper corner of the screen) and select "Settings" in the opened dropdown menu.

Disabling browser notifications in the Chrome browser in Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Site settings" option and tap it. Scroll down until you see "Notifications" option and tap it.

Disabling browser notifications in the Chrome browser in Android operating system (step 3)

Find the websites that deliver browser notifications, tap on them and click "Clear & reset". This will remove permissions granted for these websites to deliver notifications. However, once you visit the same site again, it may ask for a permission again. You can choose whether to give these permissions or not (if you choose to decline the website will go to "Blocked" section and will no longer ask you for the permission).

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Reset the Chrome web browser:

Resetting Chrome browser to default in Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Apps" and tap it.

Resetting Chrome browser to default in Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you find "Chrome" application, select it and tap "Storage" option.

Resetting Chrome browser to default in Android operating system (step 3)

Tap "MANAGE STORAGE", then "CLEAR ALL DATA" and confirm the action by taping "OK". Note that resetting the browser will eliminate all data stored within. This means that all saved logins/passwords, browsing history, non-default settings and other data will be deleted. You will also have to re-login into all websites as well.

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Delete browsing history from the Firefox web browser:

Delete browsing history from the Firefox in the Android operating system (step 1)

Tap the "Menu" button (three dots on the right-upper corner of the screen) and select "History" in the opened dropdown menu.

Delete browsing history from the Firefox in the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Clear private data" and tap it. Select data types you want to remove and tap "CLEAR DATA".

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Disable browser notifications in the Firefox web browser:

Disable browser notifications in the Firefox web browser in the Android operating system (step 1)

Visit the website that is delivering browser notifications, tap the icon displayed on the left of URL bar (the icon will not necessarily be a "Lock") and select "Edit Site Settings".

Disable browser notifications in the Firefox web browser in the Android operating system (step 2)

In the opened pop-up opt-in the "Notifications" option and tap "CLEAR".

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Reset the Firefox web browser:

Resetting Firefox browser in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Apps" and tap it.

Resetting Firefox browser in the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you find "Firefox" application, select it and tap "Storage" option.

Resetting Firefox browser in the Android operating system (step 3)

Tap "CLEAR DATA" and confirm the action by taping "DELETE". Note that resetting the browser will eliminate all data stored within. This means that all saved logins/passwords, browsing history, non-default settings and other data will be deleted. You will also have to re-login into all websites as well.

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Uninstall potentially unwanted and/or malicious applications:

Removing unwanted/malicious applications from the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Apps" and tap it.

Removing unwanted/malicious applications from the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see a potentially unwanted and/or malicious application, select it and tap "Uninstall". If, for some reason, you are unable to remove the selected app (e.g., you are prompted with an error message), you should try using the "Safe Mode".

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Boot the Android device in "Safe Mode":

The "Safe Mode" in Android operating system temporarily disables all third-party applications from running. Using this mode is a good way to diagnose and solve various issues (e.g., remove malicious applications that prevent users you from doing so when the device is running "normally").

Booting Android device in Safe Mode

Push the "Power" button and hold it until you see the "Power off" screen. Tap the "Power off" icon and hold it. After a few seconds the "Safe Mode" option will appear and you'll be able run it by restarting the device.

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Check the battery usage of various applications:

Checking the battery usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Device maintenance" and tap it.

Checking the battery usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 2)

Tap "Battery" and check the usage of each application. Legitimate/genuine applications are designed to use as low energy as possible in order to provide the best user experience and to save power. Therefore, high battery usage may indicate that the application is malicious.

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Check the data usage of various applications:

Checking data usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Connections" and tap it.

Checking data usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Data usage" and select this option. As with battery, legitimate/genuine applications are designed to minimize data usage as much as possible. This means that huge data usage may indicate presence of malicious application. Note that some malicious applications might be designed to operate when the device is connected to wireless network only. For this reason, you should check both Mobile and Wi-Fi data usage.

Checking data usage of various applications in the Android operating system (step 3)

If you find an application that uses a lot of data even though you never use it, then we strongly advise you to uninstall it as soon as possible.

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Install the latest software updates:

Keeping the software up-to-date is a good practice when it comes to device safety. The device manufacturers are continually releasing various security patches and Android updates in order to fix errors and bugs that can be abused by cyber criminals. An outdated system is way more vulnerable, which is why you should always be sure that your device's software is up-to-date.

Installing software updates in the Android operating system (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Software update" and tap it.

Installing software updates in the Android operating system (step 2)

Tap "Download updates manually" and check if there are any updates available. If so, install them immediately. We also recommend to enable the "Download updates automatically" option - it will enable the system to notify you once an update is released and/or install it automatically.

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Reset the system to its default state:

Performing a "Factory Reset" is a good way to remove all unwanted applications, restore system's settings to default and clean the device in general. However, you must keep in mind that all data within the device will be deleted, including photos, video/audio files, phone numbers (stored within the device, not the SIM card), SMS messages, and so forth. In other words, the device will be restored to its primal state.

You can also restore the basic system settings and/or simply network settings as well.

Resetting the Android operating system to its default (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "About phone" and tap it.

Resetting the Android operating system to its default (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Reset" and tap it. Now choose the action you want to perform:
"Reset settings" - restore all system settings to default;
"Reset network settings" - restore all network-related settings to default;
"Factory data reset" - reset the entire system and completely delete all stored data;

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Disable applications that have administrator privileges:

If a malicious application gets administrator-level privileges it can seriously damage the system. To keep the device as safe as possible you should always check what apps have such privileges and disable the ones that shouldn't.

Disabling Android applications that have administrator privileges (step 1)

Go to "Settings", scroll down until you see "Lock screen and security" and tap it.

Disabling Android applications that have administrator privileges (step 2)

Scroll down until you see "Other security settings", tap it and then tap "Device admin apps".

Disabling Android applications that have administrator privileges (step 3)

Identify applications that should not have administrator privileges, tap them and then tap "DEACTIVATE".

About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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