Malware Developers now Resort to Anti-emulation Techniques to Target Android users

It is no secret criminals are getting slightly more crafty when it comes to developing and deploying malware. Particularly malicious software on the Android operating system has become far more problematic to deal with. In a new effort, criminals are now actively deploying anti-emulation Android malware, effectively nullifying efforts to analyze samples of malicious code.

Anti-emulation Malware Makes Life More Difficult

To understand this new threat, one must first understand what an emulation environment on the Android platform is and does. Security researchers often use such a sandboxed environment to conduct malware analysis, allowing researchers to find a way to nip these threats in the bud Every type of malware or ransomware code is always analyzed in such an emulated environment, which usually results in a quick fix or countermeasure.

However, it appears cybercriminals have caught wind of these tactics. In fact, they make it nearly impossible for security experts to analyze malware code, thanks to their anti-emulation efforts. Unfortunately, this also means even more Android devices run the risk of getting infected with malicious code moving forward, with solutions to counter this software taking longer to develop.

In a way, this anti-emulation effort is a smart play by the criminals.Preventing researchers from analyzing malware code and developing counter solutions will ensure the criminals’ distribution campaigns are more powerful and successful in the long run. It is now up to security experts to ensure this anti-emulation behavior is addressed in a timely manner, although it remains unclear how this will be achieved. Considering how Android is still the market leader in the world of mobile operating systems, this threat is a lot more grave than most people realize.

So far, several types of anti-emulator behavior have been detected. Some types of malware will check the build information of an Android system to determine if it is running on an emulator. It is also possible to extract device information – including brand, hardware, and model – to distinguish between real devices and a sandboxed environment. These new types of malware also successfully remain dormant for a longer period of time to avoid detection by dynamic analysis countermeasures.

Thankfully, there are some ways Android users can protect themselves from the surge in new Android malware families. Sticking to Google Play to download and update applications is always the best course of action, although it is not perfect. Researchers discovered the Android Adload adware in several applications hosted at the Google Play store. This type of malicious software is one of the newest malware strains embracing anti-emulations techniques.

Perhaps the best course of action is to avoid applications with little to no ratings and install an antivirus solution on your Android device. Tools such as Malwarebytes – also available in a mobile format – are no unnecessary luxury when it comes to keeping mobile devices clean and safe. None of these measures are perfect, yet it gives every Android user a fighting chance to keep malicious software off their device

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