Android 'Gooligan' Hijacks Accounts, Downloads Junk Apps

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Malware intended to boost advertising revenue and app ratings on the Google Play store could potentially infect 74 percent of Android devices, according to security researchers.

Nicknamed "Gooligan," the malware uses a phishing scam to steal authentication tokens for Google accounts, allowing it to download fake apps to the users' Android phones and tablets without their knowledge, according to Checkpoint Security.

Gooligan's primary motivation appears to be monetary. Its creators likely receive payment when the apps it downloads promote themselves by using the hijacked Google account to leave fake positive reviews and simulate tapping on ads.

There is no evidence that Gooligan is accessing any user data from hijacked accounts, according to Google. The company wrote in a blog post that it is aware of other similar malware—it calls the genre "Ghost Push"—and is working with Checkpoint to investigate and protect users.

Ghost Push affects older Android Ice Cream, Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Lollipop mobile operating systems, but they are found on 74 percent of Android devices.

Checkpoint says it has found one million accounts compromised by Gooligan; 57 percent are in Asia, 19 percent in the Americas, 15 percent in Africa, and 9 percent in Europe. Its team created a tool to check if your account has been compromised, as well as a list of apps known to be affected by Gooligan.

The apps appear to be mostly junk utilities and games, with names like WiFi Enhancer, Perfect Cleaner, and Puzzle Bubble-Pet Paradise.

Gooligan is one of many strains of Ghost Push malware to surface. The Android security team has been tracking the Ghost Push family since 2014, and last year found more than 40,000 apps associated with it. In addition to Gooligan, there are potentially more than 150,000 similair malware strains, Google said. Each time it finds one, it revokes the stolen authentication tokens and notifies users that their accounts have been breached.

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