Many Android devices had pre-installed backdoor: Google

Earlier this year, Forbes reported how a banking Trojan called Triada had been found on a bunch of brand new budget Android smartphones. Google has now confirmed that threat actors did, indeed, manage to compromise Android smartphones with the installation of a backdoor as part of a supply chain attack.

Two years later, on Thursday, Google has now admitted that criminals in 2017 indeed managed to get an advanced backdoor preinstalled on Android devices, even before these left the factories of manufacturers.

The list of affected devices includes Leagoo M5 Plus, Leagoo M8, Nomu S10 and Nomu S20.

To understand what has happened here, we need to go back to 2016 when Kaspersky Lab researchers first uncovered what they called one of the most advanced mobile Trojans Kaspersky malware analysts had ever seen. They named that Trojan "Triada" and explained how it existed mainly in the smartphone's random access memory (RAM) using root privileges to replace system files with malicious ones. Android phones were spotted to have Triada as a preloaded backdoor in 2017.

The firm, Dr. Web’s, researchers had found Triada embedded into one of the OS libraries and located in the system section. Not just that, the Trojan couldn’t be detected or deleted using standard methods.

Triada had, the researchers found, used a call in the Android framework log function instead. In other words, the infected devices had a backdoor installed. This meant that every time an app, any app, attempted to log something the function was called and that backdoor code executed. The Triada Trojan could now execute code in pretty much any app context courtesy of this backdoor; a backdoor that came factory-fitted.

The Mountain View, California-headquartered company initially removed Triada samples from all Android devices using Google Play Protect. But in 2017, it was found that Triada evolved and ultimately became a preloaded backdoor on Android devices. Notably, the latest phones aren't likely to be affected by what has been discovered by Google. The vulnerability did have an impact on various models in the past, though.
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