Another Android malware threat has been uncovered that has potentially infected hundreds of thousands of Android devices by masquerading as popular apps in Google Play.
The Viking Horde malware was found by the security team at Check Point and reported to Google on 5 May. The malware is viewed as particularly dangerous because it can target rooted and non-rooted devices.
However, rooted devices are the most at risk, as this allows the malware to download additional components that make it almost impossible to remove.
"On rooted devices, Viking Horde delivers additional malware payloads that can execute any code remotely," the security firm said. "It also takes advantage of root access privileges to make itself difficult or even impossible to remove manually."
Once a user has installed an app containing the Viking Horde malware, the infected device joins a botnet, or network controlled by the attacker, without the owner knowing. The bots are used by the hacker for advertising clicks to generate income.
"The malware’s primary objective is to hijack a device and then use it to simulate clicks on advertisements in websites to accumulate profit," Check Point said.
Users' personal information is also at risk given that the app has access to all parts of a device that it infects, while some user reviews claim that the app also sends premium text messages, which could be used for DDoS attacks, spamming and delivering malware.
"SCAM!!! COSTS ME £4.50 THE GAME WAS ASKING FOR ROOT ACCESS which was suspicious then asks for sms permissions then sent a message that costs £4.50 then deletes it to cover it up," said one user review on Google Play.
The malware has been found inside five apps in the Google Play store: Viking Jump, Parrot Copter, WiFi Plus, Memory Booster and Simple 2048. Viking Jump, the most popular of the apps with between 50,000 and 100,000 downloads, can still be found in the app store, although the others have been removed.
Check Point said that most of those who downloaded Viking Horde-infected apps are in Russia, Spain, Lebanon, Mexico and the US.
Viking Horde isn't the only threat plaguing Android users at present. It was revealed last week that users of Snapdragon-powered smartphones are at risk from a "undetectable" Qualcomm software flaw that leaves text messages and call histories open to hackers.
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