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Taking root


Since June 2015, we have seen a steady growth in the number of mobile malware attacks that use superuser privileges (root access) on the device to achieve their goals.

Root access is incompatible with the operating system’s security model because it violates the principle that applications should be isolated from each other and from the system. It gives an application using root access a virtually unlimited control of the device, which is completely unacceptable in the case of a malicious application.

Malicious use of superuser privileges is not new in itself: in regions where smartphones are sold with privilege escalation tools preinstalled on them, malware writers have long been using this technique. There are also known cases of Trojans gaining such privileges after the user ‘rooted’ the device, i.e. used vulnerabilities to install applications that give superuser privileges on the phone.

However, the malware described in this post gains root privileges on its own, with...(continued)

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