Android malware steals access to more than 1 million Google accounts

The Gooligan malware targets devices running older versions of Android

A new Android malware has managed to steal access to more than 1 million Google accounts, and it continues to infect new devices, according to security firm Checkpoint.

“We believe that it is the largest Google account breach to date,” the security firm said in Wednesday blog post.

The malware, called Gooligan, has been preying on devices running older versions of Android, from 4.1 to 5.1, which are still used widely, especially in Asia.

[Related: Best phone of the year 2016]

Gooligan masquerades as legitimate-looking Android apps. Checkpoint has found 86 titles, many of which are offered on third-party app stores, that contain the malicious coding.

Once Gooligan is installed, it attempts to root the device, as a way to gain full control. The malware does this by exploiting well-known vulnerabilities in older versions of Android.

“These exploits still plague many devices today because security patches that fix them may not be available for some versions of Android, or the patches were never installed by the user,” Checkpoint said.

info 4 revised 11.23.16 768x512 Checkpoint

Gooligan will then go on to steal the user's Google authorization tokens, giving the malware access to Gmail, Google Play, and other related services.

Of the 1 million Google accounts breached, 19 percent were based in the Americas, 9 percent in Europe, while 57 percent were in Asia, according to Checkpoint.

By gaining access to users' Google accounts, the malware is likely attempting to generate revenue for its creators. It does this by installing apps promoted by legitimate advertising networks, and then writing positive reviews for them on Google Play.

“An attacker is paid by the network when one of these apps is installed successfully,” Checkpoint said.

Security researchers first noticed an earlier version of Gooligan last year, when it appeared in the malicious SnapPea app. It wasn’t until this past summer that the malware reappeared with upgraded processes.

Checkpoint has published a website that lets users check if their Google account was breached by Gooligan.

Security experts also caution users should avoid downloading apps from third-party app stores. This is because these stores often do little to verify that the apps offered are safe for use.

The creators of Gooligan are also spreading the malware by sending SMS text messages to unsuspecting victims containing links to download apps carrying the harmful coding.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But Checkpoint said that Google is investigating the matter and revoking authentication tokens that were stolen by the malware.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GoogleAndroidmalwarehacking

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.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?