Android malware writers exploit Instagram craze to distribute SMS Trojan horse

Fake Instagram websites distribute Android Trojan horse that sends SMS messages to premium-rate numbers

In an attempt to take advantage of the popularity of free photo-sharing app Instagram among smartphone users, malware writers have created fake Instagram websites to distribute Android Trojan horses, according to security researchers from antivirus firms Sophos and Trend Micro.

Originally developed for Apple's iOS devices, Instagram allows smartphone users to take photos, apply various digital filters to them and share the resulting images on social networking websites. There are over 30 million registered Instagram accounts as of April 2012, according to its creators.

At the beginning of April, an Android version of the app was released on Google Play and it was downloaded more than one million times during the first 12 hours.

The company that developed Instagram was acquired by Facebook for almost US$1 billion on April 12, which attracted the attention of the media and, as it usually happens with popular events, that of cybercriminals.

"We discovered a spoofed web page containing a rogue version of Instagram," Trend Micro fraud analyst Karla Agregado said in a blog post on Tuesday. "The said web page mimics Instagram‘s legitimate download page."

The fake Instagram website contains text in Russian and distributes an Android Trojan horse that, once installed, sends SMS messages to premium-rate numbers without the phone owner's authorization, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a blog post on Wednesday.

The rogue app's installer, also called the APK, contains several pictures of a man that has been the subject of a photobomb-type meme in Russia. A large number of random images with this man's picture digitally added into them can be found on Russian websites.

It's not clear why the creators of this Android malware decided to include this photo into the malicious APK, but it isn't the first time this has been done. In February, security researchers from Symantec reported about server-side polymorphic Android malware that contained the same picture.

"It's quite likely that whoever is behind this latest malware campaign is also using the names and images of other popular smartphone apps as bait," Cluley said.

Last week, security researchers from Sophos reported about a similar piece of Android malware that masqueraded as the new Angry Birds Space game in order to trick users into installing it on their phones.

Trend Micro researchers have seen several fake websites during the past few days that masquerade as download pages for popular games like Fruit Ninja, Temple Run or Talking Tom Cat, Agregado said. "Users are advised to remain cautious before downloading Android apps, specially those hosted on third-party app stores."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?