Min Zheng, Mingshen Sun, and John C.S. Lui
The 9th ACM Symposium on Information, Computer and Communications Security, ASIACCS '14.

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Architecture of DroidRay.

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Abstract. Android mobile devices are enjoying a lion's market share in smartphones and mobile devices. This also attracts malware writers to target the Android platform. Recently, we have discovered a new Android malware distribution channel: releasing malicious firmwares with pre-installed malware to the wild. This poses significant risk since users of mobile devices cannot change the content of the malicious firmwares. Furthermore, pre-installed applications have "more permissions" (i.e., silent installation) than other legitimate mobile apps, so they can download more malware or access users' confidential information. To understand and address this new form of malware distribution channel, we design and implement "DroidRay": a security evaluation system for customized Android firmwares. DroidRay uses both static and dynamic analyses to evaluate the firmware security on both the application and system levels. To understand the impact of this new malware distribution channel, we analyze 250 Android firmwares and 24,009 pre-installed applications. We reveal how the malicious firmware and pre-installed malware are injected, and discovered 1,947 (8.1%) pre-installed applications have signature vulnerability and 19 (7.6%) firmwares contain pre-installed malware. In addition, 142 (56.8%) firmwares have the default signature vulnerability, five (2.0%) firmwares contain malicious hosts file, at most 40 (16.0%) firmwares have the native level privilege escalation vulnerability and at least 249 (99.6%) firmwares have the Java level privilege escalation vulnerability. Lastly, we investigate a real-world case of a pre-installed zero-day malware known as CEPlugnew, which involves 348,018 infected Android smartphones, and we show its degree and geographical penetration. This shows the significance of this new malware distribution channel, and DroidRay is an effective tool to combat this new form of malware spreading.