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56 Android apps with malware were downloaded 1 million times before being discovered

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  • Android malware is arguably less prevalent than it was a few years ago, but it still remains a serious and all too common issue.
  • Recently, 56 Android apps with malware were discovered on Google Play. Together, these apps were downloaded more than one million times.
  • As Google slowly but surely looks to keep a closer eye on malicious apps, malware creators are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and creative when it comes to sneaking their apps onto the Play Store.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Google’s Play Store may not be the Wild West of malware it once was, but it sure does seem like we can’t go even a week or two without hearing about some dangerous piece of malware that managed to sneak in underneath Google’s radar. While Google has taken steps to make its Play Store a little bit more secure and reliable, many malicious apps, as a result, are becoming a lot more creative when it comes to avoiding detection.

Most recently, security researchers from Check Point Research discovered a new type of malware that was found to be lurking in 24 children’s games and 32 utility apps. Dubbed Tekya, the malware is essentially focused on committing mobile ad fraud and will generate fake clicks on a variety of seemingly genuine ads. And while malware infecting 56 apps may not seem like a lot at first glance, keep in mind that the 56 apps involved have already been downloaded more than one million times to date. Notably, some of the malicious apps managed to gain traction by simply copying the artwork from existing and already popular mobile apps.

“The Tekya malware obfuscates native code to avoid detection by Google Play Protect and utilizes the ‘MotionEvent’ mechanism in Android (introduced in 2019) to imitate the user’s actions and generate clicks,” the report reads.

“During this research,” the report adds, “the Tekya malware family went undetected by VirusTotal and Google Play Protect.”

The malicious apps were ultimately detected and removed from the Play Store. But again, that wasn’t until it they were cumulatively downloaded more than one million times.

For as bad as this all sounds, it’s actually not the biggest malware discovery to hit the Play Store in recent months. In fact, 1 million malicious app downloads isn’t all that staggering compared to other discoveries we’ve seen. This past August, for example, a popular Android app with well over 100 million downloads starting serving up malware to unsuspecting users in the form of intrusive ads and automatic signups for paid subscriptions.

And just last month, 24 apps which netted upwards of 382 million downloads were kicked off the Google Play Store for collecting user data and sending it back to China. Some of the apps in question also sought permission to access location data, record video and audio, and more.



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Hackaday Links: March 29, 2020

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It turns out that whacking busted things to fix them works as well on Mars as it does on Earth, as NASA managed to fix its wonky “mole” with a little help from the InSight lander’s robotic arm. Calling it “percussive maintenance” is perhaps a touch overwrought; as we explained last week, NASA prepped carefully for this last-ditch effort to salvage the HP³ experiment, and it was really more of a gentle nudge that a solid smack with the spacecraft’s backhoe bucket. From the before and after pictures, it still looks like the mole is a little off-kilter, and there was talk that the shovel fix was only the first step in a more involved repair. We’ll keep an ear open for more details — this kind of stuff is fascinating, and beats the news from Earth these days by a long shot.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic news isn’t all bad. Yes, the death toll is rising, the number of cases is still growing exponentially, and billions of people are living in fear and isolation. But ironically, we’re getting good at community again, and the hacker community is no exception. People really want to pitch in and do something to help, and we’ve put together some resources to help. Check out our Hackaday How You Can Help spreadsheet, a comprehensive list of what efforts are currently looking for help, plus what’s out there in terms of Discord and Slack channels, lists of materials you might need if you choose to volunteer to build something, and even a list of recent COVID-19 Hackaday articles if you need inspiration. You’ll also want to check out our calendar of free events and classes, which might be a great way to use the isolation time to better your lot.

Individual hackers aren’t the only ones pitching in, of course. Maybe of the companies in the hacker and maker space are doing what they can to help, too. Ponoko is offering heavy discounts for hardware startups to help them survive the current economic pinch. They’ve also enlisted other companies, like Adafruit and PCBWay, to join with them in offering similar breaks to certain customers.

More good news from the fight against COVID-19. Folding@Home, the distributed computing network that is currently working on folding models from many of the SARS-CoV-2 virus proteins, has broken the exaFLOP barrier and is now the most powerful computer ever built. True, not every core is active at any given time, but the 4.6 million cores and 400,000-plus GPUs in the network pushed it over from the petaFLOP range of computers like IBM’s Summit, until recently the most powerful supercomputer ever built. Also good news is that Team Hackaday is forming a large chunk of the soul of this new machine, with 3,900 users and almost a million work units completed. Got an old machine around? Read Mike Sczcys’ article on getting started and join Team Hackaday.

And finally, just because we all need a little joy in our lives right now, and because many of you are going through sports withdrawal, we present what could prove to be the new spectator sports sensation: marble racing. Longtime readers will no doubt recognize the mad genius of Martin and his Marble Machine X, the magnificent marble-dropping music machine that’s intended as a follow-up to the original Marble Machine. It’s also a great racetrack, and Martin does an amazing job doing both the color and turn-by-turn commentary in the mock race. It’s hugely entertaining, and a great tour of the 15,000-piece contraption. And when you’re done with the race, it’s nice to go back to listen to the original Marble Machine tune — it’s a happy little song for these trying times.



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WHO to launch coronavirus app for iPhone and Android

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  • The World Health Organization will release an official coronavirus information app for iPhone, Android, and the web.
  • The WHO MyHealth app will launch on March 30th and will include all the information the organization already pushes to its official WhatsApp chatbot.
  • The first version of the app will provide self-diagnose help and assistance, while future releases might help combat the spread of epidemics.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Combating misinformation campaigns meant to spread fear and uncertainty about the novel coronavirus is just as important as staying indoors for as long as possible and washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds as often as you can. That’s why websites such as Google’s COVID-19 site are a great resource for staying updated on the coronavirus facts and developments.

But even Google sources its information from various authoritative organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Those two will provide all the COVID-19 information you need, including symptoms and guidance on what to do if you’re infected, so it’s a good idea to have them bookmarked. WHO access is going to get even better in the weeks to come, though, thanks to an official coronavirus app that the organization will launch on iPhone, Android, and the web.

Working on the project are former Google and Microsoft employees as well as WHO advisors and ambassadors, according to 9to5Google. The organization is set to release the WHO MyHealth app on March 30th, although the code is already available as the app is open source. 9to5Google looked at the current version of the app, as seen in the screenshots below:

The app will relay the same information the WHO offers on its official WhatsApp bot, including helpful tips on what to do if you think you may be infected with the new coronavirus.

A future version of the app might prove to be even more helpful, as it could offer real-time alerts based on your location. In the future, the app could be used to track confirmed cases and access their location history in an attempt to perform contact tracing. The information could be used to better understand how the virus has traveled inside a community, at the cost of privacy:

Leveraging existing technology like Google Maps, allows users to indicate whether they have been diagnosed or have come into contact with COVID-19 patients. In addition, request permission to track historic location data on their device.

That’s only a proposal, however. The app won’t track you unless you explicitly let it do so, provided the first version has any built-in tracking abilities. But future releases could help the WHO react better to other pandemics. The primary purpose of the app is to provide the immediate assistance you might need, including quick answers to help you self-diagnose your condition.

There’s one other interesting aspect of the app, on the technical side of things. The app has been built with Flutter, which is Google’s new SDK that allows developers to code a single app and release it on iPhone, Android, the web, as well as the exciting operating system that will soon replace Android: Fuchsia.



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Marine species ‘relocating towards the poles’ due to rising temperatures

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Marine species are moving towards the Earth’s poles to escape the warming oceans (Getty)

Marine species are relocating towards the poles due to rising ocean temperatures, scientists have said.

The researchers, including scientists from the universities of Bristol and Exeter, looked at data on over 300 marine plants, birds and animals spanning more than a century.

They found a ‘general pattern’ where species showed increasing population densities towards the poles but declines in numbers in the habitats near the equator.

The team believes its findings, published in the journal Current Biology, indicate rising temperatures have led to widespread changes in the population size and distribution of marine species.

Martin Genner, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Bristol and senior study author, said: ‘The main surprise is how pervasive the effects were.

‘We found the same trend across all groups of marine life we looked at, from plankton to marine invertebrates, and from fish to seabirds.’

The world’s oceans have warmed by an average of 1C since pre-industrial times, the researchers said.

To find out how this temperature change has affected marine life, the team reviewed 540 published records of species abundance changes – their occupancy trend over time.

Climate change is warming the Earth's oceans (Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Climate change is warming the Earth’s oceans (Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

They found certain species to be thriving well in the cooler regions of the oceans, with rising temperatures opening up previously inaccessible habitats.

For example, the researchers said, the populations of Atlantic herring and Adelie penguins were both declining in abundance near the equator but increasing in abundance towards the polar regions.

But they found conditions of habitats near the equator were too warm to tolerate.

Louise Rutterford, a study author based at both Exeter and Bristol universities, said: ‘Some marine species appear to benefit from climate change, particularly some populations at the poleward limits that are now able to thrive.

‘Meanwhile, some marine life suffers as it is not able to adapt fast enough to survive warming, and this is most noticeable in populations nearer the equator.

‘This is concerning as both increasing and decreasing abundances may have harmful knock-on effects for the wider ecosystem.’

VINCENNES BAY, ANTARTICA - JANUARY 11: Giant tabular icebergs are surrounded by ice floe drift in Vincennes Bay on January 11, 2008 in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates. (Photo by Torsten Blackwood - Pool/Getty Images)

Warming is predicted to increase throughout this century (Torsten Blackwood – Pool/Getty Images)

With warming predicted to increase up to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels by 2050, the researchers said species are likely to undergo further shifts in population distribution in coming decades.

Mr Genner said: ‘This matters because it means that climate change is not only leading to abundance changes, but intrinsically affecting the performance of species locally.

‘We see species such as Emperor penguin becoming less abundant as water becomes too warm at their equatorward edge, and we see some fish such as European seabass thriving at their poleward edge where historically they were uncommon.’



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