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How to remove Exobot malware from your Android device

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

What is Exobot?

Exobot (also known as Exo Android Bot) is a piece of malicious software targeting Android OSes (Operating Systems). This malware can extract a wide variety of information, and it can also create a botnet (i.e., control a group of infected devices to carry out malicious actions).

It must be mentioned that Exobot is a sophisticated malicious program, which complicates both its detection and removal.

Exobot malware detections on VirusTotal

Exobot malware overview

Typically, malware targeting Android OSes abuses the Accessibility Services or Usage Stats to gain control over devices. Hence, that can serve as a sign of compromise when the device is constantly asking for specific permissions (e.g., enabling Accessibility Services that would allow the software to read the screen, simulate the touchscreen, etc.). However, Exobot does not require any permissions.

Additionally, most malicious programs control affected systems via the Internet, but Exobot can be controlled through SMSes (text messages) if Wi-Fi or mobile data are unavailable. In fact, this malware can manage SMSes in various ways. It can immediately report on incoming text messages, hide or delete them entirely, and it can even send SMSes.

What is more, Exobot can add infected devices to a botnet and use them to send text message spam. Cyber criminals usually use SMS spam to proliferate malware by sharing links to malicious websites.

This program is also capable of overlaying sites and applications with phishing pages that appear identical yet operate by recording the entered data. The attackers can use this feature to acquire victims' log-in credentials (usernames/passwords), personally identifiable details, credit card numbers, etc.

Exobot's developers had offered to create custom overlays for the apps of buyers' choosing. One of the sources promoting Exobot had listed the Google Play Store, Whatsapp, and Viber as examples. Therefore, the actual list of applications Exobot can mimic may be incredibly varied and extensive.

This malware can be used as ransomware as well, since this program has the ability to lock/unlock the device with a password (thereby preventing users from using it) and show a custom message on the lock-screen. This means that the cyber criminals can disable access and display a ransom note demanding payment for access recovery.

To summarize, Exobot infections can lead to diminished device performance, data loss, serious privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft. If your device is infected with Exobot, we strongly advise removing it without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name Exobot virus
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application, unwanted application.
Detection Names Avast-Mobile (Android:Banker-SO [Trj]), BitDefenderFalx (Android.Trojan.FakeApp.FY), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Android/Spy.Banker.IE), Kaspersky ( HEUR:Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Asacub.bf), Sophos (Andr/Spy-ALD), 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

We have analyzed dozens of malicious programs targeting Android OSes; BianLianERMAC 2.0L3MON, and SMSControllo are just a few examples.

In general, malware can have different abilities in varied combinations. Popular features include: data theft, password extraction, spying (recording keystrokes, audio/video via microphones and cameras, etc.), encrypting files and/or locking the screen (ransomware), causing chain infections (downloading/installing additional malicious programs), and so on.

However, regardless of how malware operates - it poses significant threats to device integrity and user safety. Therefore, it is crucial to eliminate threats immediately upon detection.

How did Exobot infiltrate my device?

When Exobot was first released, it was offered for sale online (public websites), on the dark web and hacker forums, and via spam sent on various messaging platforms. Its advertising campaigns were so active that there were even affiliate parties selling the program.

However, in 2018 the source code of Exobot was leaked, essentially making the malware available to the public. Hence, its already significant activity could increase exponentially, as has happened in the past in similar scenarios. Furthermore, due to Exobot being widely accessible, determining how it is proliferated is impossible.

Generally, cyber criminals use phishing and social engineering techniques to spread malware. Malicious software is typically disguised as or bundled with ordinary apps/media.

Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g., executables, archives, Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript, etc. Once such a file is opened - the infection chain is triggered.

The most common distribution methods include: malicious attachments or links in spam mail (e.g., emails, SMSes, private messages, comments on public forums, etc.), untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), drive-by (stealthy and deceptive) downloads, online scams, illegal program activation ("cracking") tools, and fake updates.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We strongly recommend downloading only from official and verified sources. Additionally, the content must be researched prior to download/installation. We advise activating and updating software with tools/functions provided by genuine developers, as illegal activation tools ("cracks") and fake updates may contain malware.

Another recommendation is to exercise caution with incoming mail. The attachments and links found in suspicious/irrelevant emails and messages must not be opened - since that can lead to a system infection.

We must emphasize the importance of having a reputable anti-virus installed and updated. Security programs must be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected threats/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 Exobot malware, should I format my storage device to get rid of it?

Possibly, yes. Exobot's removal might necessitate formatting the device.

What are the biggest issues that Exobot malware can cause?

The threats posed by a malicious program depend on its abilities and the cyber criminals' aims. Exobot is a multifunctional malware capable of managing SMSes, obtaining sensitive data (e.g., passwords, credit card details, etc.) through website/app overlays, password-locking the screen, and adding the device to a botnet. Therefore, these infections may lead to diminished system performance, data loss, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.

What is the purpose of Exobot malware?

Malware is usually used to generate revenue. However, other reasons behind these attacks can be the cyber criminals' amusement, process disruption (e.g., websites, services, companies, etc.), personal grudges, political/geopolitical motivations, and so on.

How did Exobot malware infiltrate my device?

Malware is primarily distributed through drive-by downloads, spam mail, dubious download channels (e.g., freeware and third-party sites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), online scams, illegal program activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.

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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.

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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