Two researchers demonstrated how they were ableto push a malicious information-stealing app onto Google Play, even whileGoogle's Bouncer custom malware scanner is watching.
Sean Schulte, a back-end SSL services developer at Trustwave joinedPercoco for the presentation.
The pair developed a benevolent app called “SMS Bloxer,”which looked like other SMS blocker apps on the market. In order to ensureregular users didn't accidentally download the app, Trustwave also priced it at$49.95, in stark contrast to similar apps, which were usually $2 or less, orfree.
SMS Bloxer lived on Google Play for two weeks and didn't getflagged by Bouncer for that entire period of time. At its worst, the app wascapable of stealing contacts, SMSmessages, and photos.
It could harvest information about the device or force aweb page to load, the researchers said. It could also launch a denial-of-service attack.
“Google never flagged it,” Percoco said.The internet giant, recognizing that malicious applications were becoming a growing problem, introduced Bouncer in February.
Google must have realized reacting was a losing battle andsome kind of app review was needed, hence Bouncer, Schulte said. There wasn't a lot of information available publicly about thetechnology or how it worked, which piqued Trustwave's curiosity, Percoco said.
“We wanted to test the bounds of what it's capable of," Percoco said.
The team created a benign app that just reported back toTrustwave whenever it was executed, and made it past Bouncer and onto GooglePlay. The team had determined Bouncer's IP address by this time, and modifiedthe test app to act maliciously only if it was executed outside Bouncer.
Trustwave shared its findings with Google, and Percoco saidthe company was a “great organization to work with." A Google spokesperson could not be reached for comment by SCMagazine.com.