What is the Sova virus? Everything you need to know about the new mobile banking virus

The new mobile banking ‘Trojan horse’ virus – SOVA – which can stealthily encrypt an Android phone for ransom and is difficult to uninstall is targeting Indian customers.

SOVA previously focused on countries like the United States, Russia and Spain, but in July 2022, it added several more countries, including India, to its list of targets.

India’s federal cybersecurity agency has issued a notice saying the virus has upgraded to its fifth version after it was first detected in Indian cyberspace in July.

“It has been reported to CERT-In that Indian banking customers are being targeted by a new type of mobile banking malware campaign using the SOVA Android Trojan. The first version of this malware has appeared for sale in the markets underground in September 2021 with the ability to harvest usernames and passwords via key logging, cookie theft and adding fake overlays to a range of applications,” the notice reads.

Here’s everything you need to know about the SOVA virus

SOVA can add fake overlays to a range of apps and “imitate” over 200 banking and payment apps in order to scam the Android user

The latest version of this malware hides in fake Android apps which appear with logo of some famous legit apps like Chrome, Amazon, NFT (non-fungible cryptocurrency token) to trick users into installing them .

India’s Computer Emergency Response Team or CERT-In is the federal technology branch to combat cyber attacks and protects the internet space from phishing and hacking attacks and similar online attacks. The agency said the malware is distributed via smishing (phishing SMS) attacks, like most Android banking Trojans.

The lethality of the virus can be gauged from the fact that it can collect keystrokes, steal cookies, intercept multi-factor authentication (MFA) tokens, take screenshots and record videos from a webcam and can perform gestures such as tapping the screen, swiping, etc. android accessibility service.

Another key feature of the virus, according to the advisory, is the refactoring of its “protections” module, which aims to protect itself from the various actions of victims. For example, he says, if the user tries to uninstall the malware from the settings or by pressing the icon, SOVA is able to intercept these actions and prevent them by returning to the home screen. and displaying a toast (small popup) displaying “This application is secure”.

This can compromise the privacy and security of sensitive customer data and lead to “large scale” financial attacks and fraud.

How it works

According to the advisory, once the fake Android app is installed on the phone, it sends the list of all the apps installed on the device to the C2 (command and control server) controlled by the threat actor in order to get the list of targeted applications. .

“At this point, the C2 returns the list of addresses of each targeted application to the malware and stores this information in an XML file. These targeted applications are then managed via communications between the malware and the C2,” he said. he declares.

How to protect your Android device:

CERT-In has suggested some countermeasures and best practices that can be implemented by users to protect themselves from the virus.

Users should reduce the risk of downloading potentially harmful apps by limiting their download sources to official app stores, such as your device manufacturer or the operating system’s app store. They should always check app details, number of downloads, user reviews, comments and “ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section”, he said.

It’s also worth checking the app’s permissions and granting only those that have context relevant to the app’s purpose.

They should install regular Android updates and patches and not browse untrustworthy websites or follow untrustworthy links and exercise caution when clicking on the link provided in unsolicited emails and SMS .

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Lance B. Holton