A dangerous Android banking malware that steals victims’ credentials and SMS messages have been downloaded thousands of times via Google Play Store, researchers have warned.

Called ‘TeaBot,’ it is an Android banking trojan that first emerged at the beginning of 2021 designed for stealing victims’ text messages.

Initially, TeaBot has been distributed through smishing campaigns using a predefined list of lures, such as TeaTV, VLC Media Player, DHL and UPS, and others, according to online fraud management and prevention solutions provider Cleafy.

“In the last months, we detected a major increase of targets which now count more than 400 applications, including banks, crypto exchanges/wallets, and digital insurance, and new countries such as Russia, Hong Kong, and the US,” the researchers informed.

During the last months, TeaBot has also started supporting new languages, such as Russian, Slovak and Mandarin Chinese, useful for displaying custom messages during the installation phases.

On February 21, the Cleafy Threat Intelligence and Incident Response (TIR) team discovered an application published on the official Google Play Store, which was acting as a dropper application delivering TeaBot with a fake update procedure.

Buy Me A Coffee

“The dropper lies behind a common QR Code & Barcode Scanner and it has been downloaded more than 10,000 times. All the reviews display the app as legitimate and well-functioning,” the team noted.

However, once downloaded, the dropper will request an update immediately through a popup message.

Unlike legitimate apps that perform the updates through the official Google Play Store, the dropper application will request to download and install a second application.

Google URL Shortener Service Ending Next Year

This application has been detected to be TeaBot.

TeaBot, posing as “QR Code Scanner: Add-On”, is downloaded from two specific GitHub repositories.

Once the users accept to download and execute the fake “update”, TeaBot will start its installation process by requesting the ‘Accessibility Services’ permissions in order to obtain the privileges needed.

One of the biggest differences, compared to the samples discovered during May 2021, is the increase of targeted applications which now include home banking applications, insurance applications, crypto wallets and crypto exchanges.

“In less than a year, the number of applications targeted by TeaBot have grown more than 500 percent, going from 60 targets to over 400,” the team said.

Google Play was yet to comment on the report.