Fake Indian Banking Rewards Apps Targeting Android Users with Info-stealing Malware

  • An SMS-based phishing campaign is targeting customers of Indian banks with information-stealing malware that masquerades as a rewards application.

    The Microsoft 365 Defender Research Team said that the messages contain links that redirect users to a sketchy website that triggers the download of the fake banking rewards app for ICICI Bank.

    “The malware’s RAT capabilities allow the attacker to intercept important device notifications such as incoming messages, an apparent effort to catch two-factor authentication (2FA) messages often used by banking and financial institutions,” researchers Shivang Desai, Abhishek Pustakala, and Harshita Tripathi said.

    Additionally, the malware is equipped with the ability to steal SMSes, potentially enabling the attacker to swipe 2FA codes sent as text messages and gain unauthorized access to victim accounts.

    Like other social engineering attacks, familiar brand logos and names are used in the smishing message as well as the rogue app in a bid to give an illusion of legitimacy and trick the users into installing the apps.

    The attacks are also a continuation of an ongoing campaign that has distributed similar rewards-themed apps for other Indian banks such as the State Bank of India (SBI) and Axis Bank in the past.

    Once installed, the fraudulent app not only asks for extensive permissions, but also requests users to enter their credit/debit card information as part of a supposed sign-in process, while the trojan waits for further instructions from the attacker.

    These commands allow the malware to harvest system metadata, call logs, intercept phone calls, as well as steal credentials for email accounts such as Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo.

    “This malware’s continuing evolution highlights the need to protect mobile devices,” the researchers said. “Its wider SMS stealing capabilities might allow attackers to the stolen data to further steal from a user’s other banking apps.”

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