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How to remove SharkBot malware from the Android operating system?

Also Known As: SharkBot virus
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is SharkBot?

SharkBot is a piece of malicious software targeting Android Operating Systems (OSes). It is designed to obtain and misuse financial data by redirecting and stealthily initiating money transfers. SharkBot is particularly active in Europe (United Kingdom, Italy, etc.), but its activity has also been detected in the United States.

SharkBot malware detections on VirusTotal

SharkBot overview

Like most Android-targeting malicious programs, SharkBot gains control over a device by abusing the OS's Accessibility Services. These functionalities are created to provide additional aid with reading/interacting with the device. Since the Android Accessibility Services include reading the screen (including typed data) and simulating/interacting with the touchscreen - SharkBot gains this level of control over compromised devices.

Following infiltration (if Android Accessibility Services are not enabled), this malware continuously displays pop-ups windows requesting permission to use these services. It can continue with its operations after being permitted.

Additionally, SharkBot has keylogging (keystroke recording) features. It can also display fake overlay windows, which are disguised as sign-in/authentication pages. Another functionality of this program is hiding and intercepting incoming text messages (SMSes), which are often used for verification purposes by banks.

Collectively these features are used to bypass 2FA/MFA (two-factor authentication/ multi-factor authentication) processes used by banks and cryptocurrency wallets. This means that SharkBot can not only redirect user-initiated transactions but also initiate them itself (without user knowledge). This malware has been observed targeting banking applications and cryptowallets, but there is reason to believe that its scope of attack may increase in the future.

What is pertinent is that the way SharkBot operates is intended to avoid detection by the security techniques employed by its targeted apps. In addition to anti-detection tactics, this program uses obfuscation, persistence, and anti-analysis techniques. Its icons are also disguised as legitimate/inconspicuous apps (e.g., media players, TV streaming, etc.). It complicates the program's discovery on infected systems and research by malware analysts.

To summarize, SharkBot infections can result in severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and even lead to identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name SharkBot virus
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application, unwanted application.
Detection Names Avast (Android:SharkBot-A [Bank]), Combo Cleaner (Trojan.GenericKD.47387732), ESET-NOD32 (Android/Spy.Agent.BWR), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Sharkbot.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, Combo Cleaner, ESET or Malwarebytes.

Malware in general

AbstractEmuPixStealerMRATGhimob, and BlackRock are some examples of Android-specific malware. In general, malicious software can have a wide variety of heinous features, which can be in different combinations.

Aside from SharkBot's functionalities, popular abilities include: data encryption/ screen locking for ransom purposes (ransomware), download/installation of additional malware, file/data extraction from infected devices and installed applications, spying (e.g., keylogging, audio/video recording via microphones and webcams, etc.), abuse of system resources to mine cryptocurrency, and so on.

Therefore, it is strongly advised to eliminate all detected threats and issues - to ensure device and user safety.

How did SharkBot infiltrate my device?

Malware is distributed using social engineering and phishing tactics. It is spread through untrustworthy download channels, e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.

Illegal activation tools ("cracks") and fake updates are also used in distribution. "Cracking" tools can cause infections instead of activating licensed software. Fraudulent updaters infect systems by abusing outdated programs and/or by installing malicious software.

Spam campaigns are also employed in malware proliferation. Scam emails can have infectious files as attachments or download links. Virulent files can be archives, executables, Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript, etc. When the files are opened - the infection chain is jumpstarted.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is recommended to download only from official and verified sources. Furthermore, all programs must be activated and updated with legitimate tools obtained from official channels. Suspicious and irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially the attachments/links present in them - as the latter can infect systems.

It is crucial to have a dependable anti-virus installed and updated. This software has to be used to run regular system scans and to remove threats and issues.

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".

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

My Android device is infected with SharkBot malware, should I format my storage device to get rid of it?

No, such drastic measures are unnecessary for SharkBot malware's removal.

What are the biggest issues that SharkBot malware can cause?

The threats posed by a malicious program depend on its functionalities and the cyber criminals' modus operandi. Since SharkBot is classified as banking malware, it seriously endangers users' privacy, financial integrity, and even their identity.

What is the purpose of SharkBot malware?

SharkBot targets victims' financial data; therefore, its purpose is to generate revenue for the cyber criminals using this malicious program. Financial gain is the primary motivation in nearly all malware infections. Other goals may include: political or geopolitical reasons, personal motivations (targeting specific individuals), process (e.g., website, service, company, etc.) disruption, cyber criminals' amusement, and so on.

How did SharkBot malware infiltrate my computer?

Malware is spread using phishing and social engineering techniques. For example, malicious software is distributed through spam mail, online scams, unofficial and freeware download sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, illegal activation tools ("cracks"), fake updates, and so forth.

Will Combo Cleaner protect me from malware?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can detect and eliminate almost all known malicious software infections. It must be emphasized that sophisticated malware usually hides deep within systems - hence, performing a full system scan is pivotal.

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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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