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Google details Triada malware – three years after it was reported! Featured

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Google details Triada malware – three years after it was reported! Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

Three years after it was first reported by Russian security firm Kaspersky ((formerly Kaspersky Lab), Google has suddenly decided to confirm a report that the firmware updates of some Android devices were compromised through their supply chain so that they could be infected with malware.

The infection was through malware known as Triada which was first described by Kaspersky in posts in March and June 2016; it described Triada as sophisticated at the time.

The malware communicated with numerous command and control centres and permitted the installation of apps that could be used to send spam and display advertisements.

Triada was discovered to be built into the firmware of a number of Android devices by anti-virus vendor Dr Web in July 2017. These included the Leagoo M5 Plus, Leagoo M8, Nomu S10 and Nomu S20. As it was within the operating system itself, it could not be removed easily.

Out of the blue, Lukasz Siewierski, a member of Google's Android Security & Privacy Team, issued a detailed blog post on Thursday, confirming what Dr Web had reported nearly two years earlier. "The main purpose of Triada apps was to install spam apps on a device that displays ads," he wrote.

triada

How Triada gained access to the Android devices. Courtesy Google

"The creators of Triada collected revenue from the ads displayed by the spam apps. The methods Triada used were complex and unusual for these types of apps.

"Triada apps started as rooting trojans, but as Google Play Protect strengthened defences against rooting exploits, Triada apps were forced to adapt, progressing to a system image backdoor.

"However, thanks to OEM co-operation and our outreach efforts, OEMs prepared system images with security updates that removed the Triada infection."

While Siewierski was silent on the models that were infected, he named the vendor where the infection had taken place.

"Triada infects device system images through a third-party during the production process. Sometimes OEMs want to include features that aren’t part of the Android Open Source Project, such as face unlock," he said.

"The OEM might partner with a third-party that can develop the desired feature and send the whole system image to that vendor for development. Based on analysis, we believe that a vendor using the name Yehuo or Blazefire infected the returned system image with Triada."

iTWire has contacted Google to find out why the company suddenly decided to issue details about Triada so long after the malware was first unearthed.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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