Two researchers demonstrated how they were able to push a malicious information-stealing app onto Google Play, even while Google's Bouncer custom malware scanner was watching.
Speaking at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, the pair said that they had developed a benevolent app called ‘SMS Bloxer' that looked like other SMS blocker apps on the market. In order to ensure regular users didn't accidentally download the app, Trustwave also priced it at $49.95, in stark contrast to similar apps, which were usually £2 or less or free.
SMS Bloxer lived on Google Play for two weeks and didn't get flagged by Bouncer for that entire period of time. At its worst, the app was capable of stealing contacts, SMS messages and photos and it was able to harvest information about the device or force a web page to load. The researchers said that it could also launch a denial-of-service attack.
Percoco said: “We wanted to test the bounds of what it's capable of.”
He said the benign app reported back to Trustwave whenever it was executed, and made it past Bouncer and onto Google Play. The team had determined Bouncer's IP address by this time and modified the test app to act maliciously only if it was executed outside Bouncer.
Trustwave shared its findings with Google, and Percoco said the company was a "great organisation to work with".