Thousands of Australian Android users may have downloaded the ‘Agent Smith’ of the mobile world, and the result isn’t pretty.
The malicious clone apps named after Hugo Weaving’s character from The Matrix, have infected up to 25 million Android devices globally and it’s spreading at an alarming rate, cybersecurity firm Check Point has warned.
Check Point’s researchers say the malware so far has been used to display dodgy advertisements for financial gain on users devices, but they’ve warned it’s capable of much, much worse.
Users are completely unaware to Agent Smith taking over their smartphones and tablets.
It infects devices when the user installs an app that contains the malicious code, typically games installed from third-party sites.
From there, Agent Smith scours the device for other apps it can ‘feed on’ replacing them with a cloned, weaponised version without the user’s permission.
Some apps Agent Smith is capable of replicating include WhatsApp, web browser Opera and SwiftKey. It’s estimated infected devices contain on average 112 cloned apps.
The dodgy apps work fine and are difficult to detected as the malware is hidden from the device user.
“Armed with all the permissions users had granted to the real apps, Agent Smith was able to hijack other apps on the phone to display unwanted ads to users. That might not seem like a significant problem, but the same security flaws could be used to hijack banking, shopping and other sensitive apps,” Check Point’s Aviran Hazum said.