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Removing the BadBazaar malware from your Android device

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

What is BadBazaar?

BadBazaar is the name of a spyware targeting Android OSes (Operating Systems). Spyware is a type of malware that can stealthily extract and record data on infected devices.

Evidence found by researchers at Bleeping Computer suggests that BadBazaar is linked to attacks against ethnic and religious minority groups in China. Most notably, this malware has targeted Uyghurs - a Turkic ethnic group native to Xinjiang. Furthermore, this malicious activity is likely the work of Chinese state-backed threat actors - the APT15 (Pitty Tiger) group.

BadBazaar malware detections on VirusTotal

BadBazaar overview

As mentioned in the introduction, BadBazaar seeks to obtain sensitive information from victims' Android devices. It can extract detailed information relating to the device, its OS, used Wi-Fi networks, and user geolocation.

The spyware can also acquire a list of installed applications and access folders. It is capable of exfiltrating files and databases.

Furthermore, this malware targets communications - it can obtain call logs (including geolocation data) and even record them. Managing SMSes (text messages) is within BadBazaar's capabilities. These functionalities extend to message logs and chat histories of various messaging apps. Another feature of BadBazaar is using the device's cameras to take photographs.

To summarize, software like BadBazaar can cause severe privacy issues and financial losses, as well as lead to identity theft. It is pertinent to mention that since BadBazaar malware has been observed in politically/geopolitically motivated attacks - the repercussions of these infections can be much more devastating.

If you believe that your device is infected with BadBazaar spyware (or other malware), we strongly recommend using an anti-virus to eliminate it without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name BadBazaar virus
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application, unwanted application.
Detection Names Avast-Mobile (Android:SmsSpy-ACO [Spy]), ESET-NOD32 (Multiple Detections), Ikarus (Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Agent), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.Bahamut.h), 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.

Similar malware examples

BahamutDrinikFurBallFlyTrap, and S.O.V.A. are some examples of spyware and other information-stealing malware that targets Android OSes.

Malicious programs designed for data theft can aim for a broad range of information or only particular details. However, regardless of what data malware can obtain or what other features it has - the presence of this software on a system endangers device integrity and user safety.

How did BadBazaar infiltrate my device?

BadBazaar has been distributed under the guise of various applications, which were pushed via communication channels popular with specific ethnic groups. The apps were noted under varied disguises, ranging from those pertaining to religious content to OS and media tools.

It is likely that BadBazaar is proliferated using other methods as well. Generally, malware is spread by employing phishing and social engineering techniques.

Malicious software is primarily distributed through untrustworthy download channels (e.g., freeware and third-party websites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), online scams, drive-by (stealthy/deceptive) downloads, malicious attachments/links in spam mail (e.g., emails, PMs/DMs, SMSes, etc.), malvertising, illegal program activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We highly recommend researching software prior to download/installation by reading terms and user/expert reviews, checking out necessary permissions, verifying developer legitimacy, etc. Additionally, all downloads must be done from official and verified sources. It is just as important to activate and update software using genuine functions/tools.

We advise being careful when browsing since fraudulent and malicious content usually appears legitimate and innocuous. Another recommendation is to be vigilant with incoming mail. The attachments/links found in dubious emails or other messages - must not be opened, as they can be virulent and cause infections.

It is crucial to have a reputable anti-virus installed and kept updated. Security programs must be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected 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".

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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

No, most malicious programs can be eliminated without resorting to such drastic measures.

What are the biggest issues that BadBazaar malware can cause?

The threats posed by malware depend on its functionalities and the cyber criminals' aims. BadBazaar is a spyware-type program designed to steal and record sensitive data. Typically, such infections can result in severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.

It is pertinent to mention that BadBazaar is linked to attacks undertaken by Chinese state-backed threat actors against ethnic/religious minorities in China, particularly the Uyghurs.

What is the purpose of BadBazaar malware?

While in most cases malware is used to generate revenue, BadBazaar has been observed being implemented in a different capacity. This software targeted ethnic and religious minorities in China. These types of attacks are classified as political/geopolitical and can have dire consequences. Aside from the previously mentioned reasons, malware infections can also be motivated by the cyber criminals' need for amusement or their personal grudges.

How did BadBazaar malware infiltrate my Android device?

BadBazaar has been notably spread through communication channels frequented by certain ethnic groups. This malware was presented as various apps, such as video players, battery optimizers, etc. However, it is likely that BadBazaar is proliferated using other techniques as well.

Malicious software is most commonly distributed via drive-by downloads, dubious download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware sites, P2P sharing networks, etc.), spam mail (e.g., emails, SMSes, PMs/DMs, etc.), online scams, fake updaters, illegal software activation tools ("cracks"), and malvertising.

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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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