iBanking: Exploiting the Full Potential of Android Malware

ibanking malware


Powerful Russian cybercrime gangs have begun to use premium Android malware to broaden their attacks on financial institutions. The tool, known as iBanking, is one of the most expensive pieces of malware Symantec has seen on the underground market and its creator has a polished, Software-as-a-Service business model.

Operating under the handle GFF, its owner sells subscriptions to the software, complete with updates and technical support for up to US$5,000. For attackers unable to raise the subscription fee, GFF is also prepared to strike a deal, offering leases in exchange for a share of the profits.

iBanking often masquerades as legitimate social networking, banking or security applications and is mainly being used to defeat out-of-band security measures employed by banks, intercepting one-time passwords sent through SMS. It can also be used to construct mobile botnets and conduct covert surveillance on victims. iBanking has a number of advanced features, such as allowing attackers to toggle between HTTP and SMS control, depending on the availability of an Internet connection.

Its high price tag meant that use was initially confined mainly to well-resourced cybercrime gangs but, with the recent leak of its source code, Symantec has seen a significant increase in activity around iBanking and attacks are likely to grow further in the near future.

How it Works?

Attackers use social engineering tactics to lure their victims into downloading and installing iBanking on their Android devices. The victim is usually already infected with a financial Trojan on their PC, which will generate a pop up message when they visit a banking or social networking website, asking them to install a mobile app as an additional security measure.

How an iBanking victim is infected!

How an iBanking victim is infected!

The user is prompted for their phone number and the device operating system and will then be sent a download link for the fake software by SMS. If the user fails to receive the message for any reason, the attackers also provide a direct link and QR code as alternatives for installing the software. In some cases, the malware is hosted on the attackers’ servers. In other cases, it is hosted on reputable third-party marketplaces.

iBanking can be configured to look like official software from a range of different banks and social networks. Once it is installed on the phone, the attacker has almost complete access to the handset and can intercept voice and SMS communications.


iBanking has evolved from a simple SMS stealer into a powerful Android Trojan, capable of stealing a wide range of information from an infected handset, intercepting voice and text communications, and even recording audio through the phone’s microphone.

Early, pre-sale versions were seen in August 2013. They had limited functionality and could simply redirect calls and steal SMS messages. iBanking’s owner, who operates under the handle GFF, has continually refined the malware. By September 2013, it had gone on sale on a major Eastern European underground forum and was already replete with a broad range of functionality.

iBanking can be controlled through both SMS and HTTP. This effectively provides online and offline options for command and control. By default, the malware checks for a valid Internet connection. If one is found, it can be controlled over the Web through HTTP. If no Internet connection is present, it switches to SMS.

iBanking’s main features now include:

  • Stealing phone information –phone number, ICCID, IMEI, IMSI, model, operating system
  • Intercepting incoming/outgoing SMS messages and uploading them to the control server
  • Intercepting incoming/outgoing calls and uploading them to the control server in real time
  • Forwarding/redirecting calls to an attacker-controlled number
  • Uploading contacts information to the control server
  • Recording audio on the microphone and uploading it to the control server
  • Sending SMS messages
  • Getting the geolocation of the device
  • Access to the file system
  • Access to the program listing
  • Preventing the removal of the application if administrator rights are enabled
  • Wiping/restoring phone to the factory settings if administrator rights are enabled
  • Obfuscated application code

While iBanking was initially only available from GFF at a premium price of US$5,000, the source code for the malware was leaked in February. Not surprisingly, this resulted in an immediate increase in bot activity relating to iBanking. Symantec predicts that this upsurge in activity will continue as news of the leaked source code spreads through the underground.

However, we believe that the more professional cybercrime groups will continue to pay for the product, allowing them to avail of updates, technical support and new features. The leaked version of iBanking is unsupported and contains an unpatched vulnerability.

GFF continues to develop iBanking and add new features. They have also claimed that they are developing a version for BlackBerry, although this has yet to go on sale.


Credits: This story was first published on Symantec.com


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