How to remove ThiefBot malware from the Android operating system?

Also Known As: ThiefBot virus
Type: Trojan
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Severe

ThiefBot malware removal guide

What is ThiefBot?

ThiefBot is a piece of malicious software. It is designed to target Android OS (Operating System) versions 4 through 10. This malware has various functionalities, its main features include SMS manipulation and exploitation of system/application vulnerabilities. ThiefBot is deemed to be a dangerous program, and as such - its infections must be eliminated immediately upon detection.

As mentioned in the introduction, ThiefBot malware has significant control over text messages. It can stealthily intercept SMSes, create and send them, as well as use the mobile device to deliver text message spam campaigns. The term "spam campaign" defines an operation, during which hundreds or thousands of deceptive/scam messages (SMSes, in this case) are sent, typically by using different sources (e.g. multiple infected devices). This malicious program can also learn and extract the compromised device's IP (Internet Protocol) address and lock its screen. The latter can be used for a variety of purposes, e.g. to limit the users' activity, demand payment for access restoration, prevent interference with the malware's operations or stop its removal, and so on. Furthermore, ThiefBot can inject malicious code into vulnerabilities present in the OS or installed apps. This ability may enable the malware to corrupt or erase data, reduce accountability, deny access (e.g. to an application, service, website, etc.). What is more, it might even allow ThiefBot to completely take over the infected system. To summarize, ThiefBot infections can lead to data and financial loss, severe privacy issues and even identity theft. Therefore, if it is suspected/known that ThiefBot (or other malware) has already infected the system - an anti-virus must be used to remove it without delay.

ThiefBot malware detections on VirusTotal

Threat Summary:
Name ThiefBot virus
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application, unwanted application.
Detection Names DrWeb (Android.BankBot.517.origin), McAfee (Artemis!E88867956017), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Android/Spy.Banker.AMB), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Mbot.e), Full List (VirusTotal)
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).
Malware Removal (Windows) To eliminate malware infections our security researchers recommend scanning your Android device with legitimate anti-malware software. We recommend Avast, Bitdefender, ESET or Malwarebytes.

BasbankeSpyMaxCerberusAnubis and Eventbot are some examples of other Android-specific malware. Malicious programs can have a broad range of heinous functionalities that can enable likewise varied misuse. Regardless of how malware operates, its end-goal is always the same - to generate revenue for the developers / cyber criminals behind it.

How did ThiefBot infiltrate my device?

Since ThiefBot is offered for sale online, how it is distributed depends on the modus operandi of the specific cyber criminals using it. The most common malware proliferation techniques are via trojans, spam campaigns, illegal activation tools ("cracks"), illegitimate updaters and untrustworthy download channels. Trojans are malicious programs with various functionalities that can include the ability to cause chain infections (i.e. download/install additional malware). Spam campaigns are mass-scale operations, during which thousands of scam messages, typically emails, are sent. This mail is usually presented as "official", "important", "urgent", "priority", etc. The messages (e.g. emails) contain download links of infectious files and/or the files are simply attached to them. Virulent files can be in a variety of formats (e.g. archives, executables, PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, etc.) and when they are executed, run or otherwise opened - the infection process/chain is initiated. Rather than activate licensed programs, "cracking" tools can download/install malware. Fake updaters infect systems by abusing flaws of outdated programs and/or by installing malicious software, instead of the promised updates. Untrustworthy download sources, e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting (freeware) websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule, etc.) and other third party downloaders - can offer malware for downloading, disguised as or packed together with ordinary content.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Suspicious and/or irrelevant messages (e.g. emails, SMSes, etc.) should not be opened, especially ones received from unknown/suspect senders. Any links of attachments present in dubious mail - must not be opened, as doing so can result in a high-risk system infection. It is recommended to only use official and verified download channels. It is just as important to activate and update programs with tools/functions provided by genuine developers. Illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third party updaters are advised against use, as they often proliferate malware. To ensure device integrity and user safety, it is crucial to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept updated. This software has to be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected threats and issues.

ThiefBot malware promoted online:

ThiefBot malware promoted in hacker forum

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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Medium threat activity

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ThiefBot virus QR code
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