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How to avoid installation of the AlienBot Banker?

Also Known As: AlienBot Banker mobile malware
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is AlienBot Banker?

AlienBot (or simply Alien) Banker is the name of mobile banking malware targeting Android users. Usually, cybercriminals behind malware of this type attempt to steal sensitive information associated with financial applications, accounts.

AlienBot Banker is used to steal banking accounts. Research shows that it is distributed alongside MRAT (a remote administration trojan) that allows the attackers to perform certain actions on the infected Android device.

AlienBot Banker is distributed using a dropper that cybercriminals spread via the Google Play store.

AlienBot Banker android malware

As mentioned in the introduction paragraph, AlienBot Banker (and remote access trojan called MRAT) installs through a dropper (a certain kind of trojan that is designed to install its payload) that spreads via Google Play store. The aforementioned dropper uses a set of techniques to avoid detection by Google Play Protect and remain undetected.

It is important to mention that dropper used to spread AlienBot Banker is distributed through a number of different open source applications (e.g., BeatPlayer, Cake VPN, Call-Recorder, eVPN, Music Player, Pacific VPN, QRecorder, QR/Barcode Scanner MAX) on Google Play store with a malicious code injected into them and can be used to drop (install) different payloads.

If the infected Android device stops the installations of apps downloaded from unknown sources, then the dropper displays a fake Google Play Services request asking to start the installation. If installed, the described payload, AlienBot Banker targets financial applications and tries to steal login credentials and 2FA (two-factor authentication) codes from them.

It is known that this Android malware can steal login credentials from more than 200 applications (banking, email, social media and other apps). Research shows that AlienBot can be used to record keystrokes and SMS messages, collect device information, contacts, list of installed applications, make USSD requests, forward calls, install, remove and start applications, lock screen, showing arbitrary web pages, launch screen overlay, hide its icon, prevent victims from removing it, list and forward SMS messages, and detect emulators.

Typically, cybercriminals use stolen accounts to make unauthorized transactions, payments or sell them on the darknet to other cybercriminals. As previously mentioned, the dropper used to distribute AlienBot Banker can install a remote access trojan which could be used to control certain function and use them to install applications on a device, remotely control it, etc.

Threat Summary:
Name AlienBot Banker mobile malware
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application, unwanted application.
Detection Names Avast-Mobile (APK:RepMalware [PUP]), BitDefenderFalx (Android.Trojan.Banker.UA), ESET-NOD32 (Android/TrojanDownloader.Agent.UT), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Clast82.b), 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 Dropper distributed through infected applications available on Google Play store
Damage Stolen personal information, monetary losses, stolen identity, installation of unwanted software
Malware Removal (Android) To eliminate malware infections our security researchers recommend scanning your Android device with legitimate anti-malware software. We recommend Avast, Bitdefender, ESET or Malwarebytes.

More examples of Android mobile malware BlackRock, FluBot, and Basbanke. The provided examples are malicious applications targeting information associated with financial applications, banking accounts.

Typically, attacked users lose access to their accounts, suffer monetary loss, or encounter other issues (e.g., become victims of identity theft). Therefore, it is strongly recommended to take certain precautions to keep a device safeand regularly scan it for threats and other issues.

How did AlienBot Banker infiltrate my device?

The AlienBot Banker is distributed through a dropper/malware installer that cybercriminals spread through applications on the Google Play store. Research shows that that dropper downloads its payloads from GitHub.

There are many applications on the Google Play store with different GitHub repositories used to distribute not only AlienBot Banker but also other payloads. It is important to mention that malicious applications can be distributed through unreliable sources like unofficial pages, third-party downloaders, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), free file hosting pages, and other channels of this kind as well.

Also, they can be proliferated via emails (attachments or website links in them), fake software updaters, 'cracking' tools designed to illegally activate licensed software. Although, cybercriminals use the aforementioned ways to distribute malware when they seek to infect desktop computers.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is strongly advisable to download apps from official pages, legitimate platforms and via direct links. Unofficial pages, third-party stores, third-party downloaders, and so on are likely to be used to distribute infected apps.

Also, it is important to activate and update any installed software with implemented functions or tools provided by the official developers. It is never safe to use third-party, unofficial tools - they can be bundled with malware.

Moreover, it is not legal to activate licensed applications with unofficial tools, or use pirated (hacked) programs. One more way to avoid unwanted downloads and installations is by carefully analyzing received emails.

Files or links in irrelevant emails received from unknown senders should not be opened. It is common that cybercriminals use email attachments or links to deliver their malware.

As a rule, emails used to deliver malware are disguised as important letters from legitimate companies, organizations, etc. An additional recommendation is to scan a device for viruses regularly and make sure to keep the installed antivirus or anti-spyware solution up to date.

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".

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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.

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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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