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How to remove Vultur remote access trojan from the operating system?

Also Known As: Vultur remote access trojan
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is Vultur?

Vultur is a malicious program classified as a RAT (Remote Access Trojan). Malware within this classification operates by enabling remote access and control over infected devices. Vultur targets Android operating systems. This malicious software seeks to obtain victims' online banking and cryptocurrency wallet credentials.

Australian, Italian, and Spanish banks were amongst the most targeted by this trojan; smaller campaigns were focused on Dutch and United Kingdom banking institutions. Additionally, the list of cryptowallets targeted by the Vultur RAT is extensive.

Vultur RAT in detail

As mentioned in the introduction, the Vultur RAT allows cyber criminals to remotely access and control infected Android devices. Like most malicious programs targeting devices running this operating system, Vultur relies on the Accessibility Services to establish control over devices. These services are designed to provide additional aid in reading and interacting with the device.

The Android Accessibility Services can read what is displayed on the device's screen and simulate the touchscreen. Vultur malicious program elevates its permissions through the Accessibility Services by continuously showing pop-up windows, which request the aforementioned services to be enabled.

Once the permissions are granted, the malware hides its application and begins abusing the Accessibility Services. Hence, Vultur can unlock the device and mimic gestures/strokes for the device to execute.

The primary functionalities of this trojan are screen-recording and keylogging (i.e., recording of keystrokes). Unlike most Android-targeting banking malware, Vultur does not display fake sign-in windows to collect log-in credentials. This RAT employs the previously mentioned features for this purpose.

To elaborate, Vultur's screen-recording function is based on VNC (Virtual Network Computing); this is a broad term referring to routines/software ranging from screen-sharing to remote access. The trojan uses its screen-recording capabilities in combination with keylogging to acquire the necessary information (e.g., IDs, email addresses, usernames, passwords, etc.) to gain control over victims' bank accounts and cryptowallets.

After the necessary data is obtained, cyber criminals can make fraudulent transactions and/or unauthorized purchases. This malicious program can also acquire the list of installed apps, prevent users from uninstalling it, and masquerade as legitimate applications (e.g., "Protection Guard").

To summarize, Vultur infections can lead to severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and identity theft. If it is known/suspected that the Vultur RAT (or other malware) has already infected the device - an anti-virus must be used to eliminate it without delay.

Vultur malware detections on VirusTotal

Threat Summary:
Name Vultur remote access trojan
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application, unwanted application.
Detection Names Avast-Mobile (Android:Evo-gen [Trj]), BitDefenderFalx (Android.Trojan.Vultur.B), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Android/Spy.Vultur.A), Kaspersky (HEUR:Backdoor.AndroidOS.Vultur.a), 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 (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.

Malware in general

TeaBotGhimobMRAT, and BlackRock are some examples of malware designed to infect Android operating systems. Malicious software can have a wide variety of heinous abilities, which can be in different combinations. Furthermore, such programs can be used for a broad range of harmful purposes.

Popular malware features include: content exfiltration from the system, data extraction from browsers and other applications, data encryption and/or screen-locking for ransom purposes (ransomware), download/installation of additional malware, enablement of remote access and control (RATs), use of system resources to mine cryptocurrency (cryptominers), spying (recording the screen, keystrokes, audio/video via microphones and cameras), and so on.

Regardless of how malware operates, its sole aim is to generate profit for the cyber criminals using it. Furthermore, all malware infections can lead to various severe problems; therefore, all threats and issues must be removed immediately upon detection.

How did Vultur infiltrate my device?

Vultur has been observed being injected into systems by a loader/backdoor trojan. The malware designed to cause Vultur infections was noted being spread under the guise of fitness and authentication related apps, which were distributed through the Google Play Store. At the time of research, the fake applications had thousands of downloads - meaning that Vultur's scope of operation could be quite large.

In general, malware is often disguised as or bundled with ordinary software/media. However, it is more commonly spread via dubious download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.) rather than trustworthy sources - on which it is more likely to be detected and removed.

Illegal activation tools ("cracks) and fake updates are prime examples of malware-proliferating content. "Cracking" tools can cause infections instead of activating licensed products. Illegitimate updaters infect systems by abusing outdated program flaws and/or by installing malicious software rather than the promised updates.

Spam campaigns are also used to distribute malware. This term defines a large-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The scam letters can have infectious files attached to them, or contain download links of such content.

Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g., archives (RAR, ZIP), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, and so on. When the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection chain is triggered.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is advised to use only official and verified download channels. Software must be activated and updated using functions provided by genuine developers. Suspicious/Irrelevant emails must not be opened, especially any attachments or links found in them.

To ensure device integrity and user privacy, it is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept up-to-date. Furthermore, these programs have to be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats.

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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