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How to eliminate FakeReward malware from an Android device

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

What is FakeReward?

FakeReward is the name of a malicious program targeting Android devices. It is designed to obtain personally identifiable and banking-related information. There are multiple variants of FakeReward; at least five versions have been spotted at the time of writing.

FakeReward has been actively proliferated via smishing (SMS phishing) campaigns. These SMSes sought clients of the three largest Indian banks.

Trend Micro researchers have discovered several spam campaigns targeting Indian users. These operations involve the following malware - AxBanker, Elibomi, IcRAT, and IcSpy. However, currently, these campaigns cannot be definitively connected to one another.

FakeReward malware detections on VirusTotal

FakeReward malware overview

FakeReward may be disguised as an application of a legitimate bank. Following successful infiltration, this malware requests SMS permissions. In comparison, newer variants attempt to gain them indirectly through notification permissions.

After being permitted, FakeReward can intercept SMSes and extract those already in the inbox. This means that FakeReward can obtain OTPs (One-Time Passwords) and 2FAs/MFAs (two/multi-factor authentications). Should future versions have the ability to send SMSes - then FakeReward could operate as Toll Fraud malware.

Additionally, this software displays phishing screens that collect personally-identifiable and finance-related information: full name, birthdate, mobile phone number, email address, and credit card details (i.e., cardholder name, card number, expiration date, and CVV code).

With this data in their possession, cyber criminals could use it to make unauthorized transactions and/or online purchases.

It must be mentioned that malware developers commonly improve upon their creations; therefore, any future variants of FakeReward could have additional/other abilities.

In summary, FakeReward infections can lead to severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and identity theft.

If you suspect that your device is infected with FakeReward (or other malware) - use an anti-virus and eliminate it immediately. And if your personal information has already been compromised, we strongly recommend contacting the appropriate authorities.

Threat Summary:
Name FakeReward virus
Threat Type Android malware, malicious application.
Detection Names Avast-Mobile (Android:Evo-gen [Trj]), DrWeb (Android.Banker.529.origin), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Android/Spy.Banker.BOB), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Banker.AndroidOS.Agent.kl), 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.

Android-targeting malware examples

AhmythBadBazaarAutolycos, and Drinik are some examples of Android-specific malware that we have analyzed recently.

Malicious software can operate variously, e.g., steal data, encrypt data or lock screens to make ransom demands (ransomware), abuse system resources to generate cryptocurrency (cryptominers), cause chain infections, and so forth. However, how malware operates is irrelevant - since the presence of this software on a system endangers device/user safety regardless.

How did FakeReward infiltrate my device?

FakeReward has been observed being spread through spam SMSes relating to banks (e.g., reward/points programs, tax benefits/deductions, etc.). The text message either contained links to phishing sites disguised as legitimate bank pages or straight to the download sources for FakeReward.

However, this malware may also be distributed using other methods. Malicious programs are proliferated using phishing and social engineering techniques. They are typically disguised as or bundled with ordinary software/media.

The most widely used malware proliferation techniques include: malicious attachments/links in spam mail (e.g., emails, PMs/DMs, SMSes, etc.), drive-by (stealthy and deceptive) downloads, online scams, malvertising, untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), illegal program activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We strongly recommend researching software before download/installation by reading terms and user/expert reviews, checking out permissions, verifying developer legitimacy, etc. All downloads must be performed from official and verified sources. Additionally, software must be activated and updated using legitimate functions/tools, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and fake updates can contain malware.

Another recommendation is to exercise caution with incoming emails, PMs/DMs, SMSes, and other messages. The attachments/links present in suspicious/irrelevant mail - must not be opened, as they can be malicious and cause infections. We advise caution when browsing since fake and dangerous content typically appears ordinary/harmless.

We must emphasize the importance of having a dependable anti-virus installed and kept updated. Security programs must be used to run regular system scans and to remove detected threats.

Appearance of FakeReward's app disguise asking for permissions and private data (image source - Trend Micro):

FakeReward malware fake app appearance and asked permissions

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 FakeReward malware, should I format my storage device to get rid of it?

No, FakeReward's removal does not necessitate such drastic measures.

What are the biggest issues that FakeReward malware can cause?

The threats associated with an infection depend on the malware's abilities and the cyber criminals' aims. FakeReward targets a wide variety of sensitive data, i.e., personally identifiable details, log-in credentials, credit card numbers, etc. Typically, malware of this kind can cause severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and even lead to identity theft.

What is the purpose of FakeReward malware?

Cyber criminals primarily use malware to generate revenue. However, this software may also be used for amusement or to disrupt processes (e.g., sites, services, companies, institutions, etc.). Malware attacks may be motivated by personal grudges and political/geopolitical reasons.

How did FakeReward malware infiltrate my Android device?

FakeReward has been noted being spread through SMS spam campaigns. However, it may be proliferated using other methods as well. Malware is primarily distributed via spam mail (e.g., emails, PMs/DMs, SMSes, etc.), online scams, drive-by downloads, dubious download sources (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), malvertising, illegal software 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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