What You Need to Know About the Rising Threat of Banking Trojans

Learn more about all that you need to know about the rising threat of banking trojans in the article below. ...
What You Need to Know About the Rising Threat of Banking Trojans
Written by Brian Wallace
  • In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, banking app trojans stand out as one of the most insidious dangers today. These sneaky apps have the potential to wreak havoc on your finances by stealing personal information. Understanding what they are, how they operate, and how to protect yourself is crucial in today’s digital age.

    What are Banking App Trojans?

    The digital world’s trojans borrow their name from classic Greek myth. First told by Homer in his epic poem the Odyssey, the myth of the Trojan horse describes how Greek soldiers were able to infiltrate Troy, their rival’s city, during war. 

    The Greeks hid in an enormous wooden horse left at the impenetrable city gates as an offering to the goddess Athena. The Trojans brought it inside their city limits thinking this gift was a harmless donation from some unknown benefactor. 

    When the Trojans pulled the horse inside, they unwittingly invited their opponents into their home, and they suffered a steep price. The hiding Greeks waited until nightfall to creep out, opening the sturdy gates to let the rest of the Greek army into destroy the city of Troy and win the war

    These days, the Trojan horse myth has become synonymous with any scenario that convinces a target to invite their rivals into their protected circle. When it comes to the tech world, the Trojan horse represents any malware that tricks you into letting it onto your device to do something nefarious.

    Banking app trojans are a specific type of virus that targets mobile banking apps. Just like the Greek myth of old, these digital trojans masquerade as legitimate apps you want on your phone — often totally unrelated to finances, like QR code readers or productivity trackers. 

    What do Trojan Apps Do on Your Phone?

    Getting onto your phone is only the first step. The second step is gaining permissions so that they can track your device and the personal information you share. 

    Many of these apps do this by issuing permission screens that all apps have — even the most legitimate ones. You might allow the trojan full access to your phone by granting permission, thinking nothing unusual about these requests.

    SharkBot has been heralded as the new generation of banking trojans that follow this strategy. It deposits itself onto your phone as a file recovery service. Once you install and open it on your phone, it asks for the usual permissions to access videos, photos, and audio on your device. However, it also requests additional permissions that, if granted, allow it to interact with other apps and send payments on Google Play. 

    If you unthinkingly grant these permissions, SharkBot has the information it needs to go through your phone, stealing personal information. Things like login credentials and passwords aren’t safe. 

    Anatsa, a malware dropper, is another banking trojan that goes about stealing your information in a different way. Rather than asking for permissions, it leverages updates to do its bidding. After you install the dummy app, the developers send out an update that alters its AccessibilityService control. This bait-and-switch trick allows the developers to take over the device and steal information. 

    Navigating the Evolving Threat Landscape

    Recently, there have been more and more of these trojans popping up. They come with lots of fancy features that help them stay hidden and defraud people.

    A study done by Zimperium, a mobile security platform, found that ten new banking trojans debuted in 2023. These trojans targeted 985 banking and finance apps in 61 different countries.

    Trojan banking apps have the power to do lots of different things, like automatically moving money around or even letting hackers see what’s happening on your screen.

    What’s even scarier is that hackers are getting smarter about tricking people into downloading these trojans. They’re using tactics like pretending to be customer support agents or sending out fake messages to trick people into installing the trojans without knowing it.

    Protecting Yourself

    Forewarned is forearmed. Had the Trojans known the Greeks could hide in a horse disguised as a religious offering, they would never have dragged the horse inside their city limits. You too can keep trojans off your phone now that you know that malware can scam its way on your device. 

    Follow these tips to manage accounts, pay bills, and borrow money online safely. 

    Stick to Official App Stores

    Avoid downloading apps from unofficial sources or third-party app stores, as these are more likely to harbor malware. Stick to reputable platforms like Google Play, and carefully review user reviews and developer credentials before installing any app. 

    Exercise Caution with Permissions

    During the installation process, pay close attention to the permissions requested by an app. Be wary of applications that ask for unnecessary access to sensitive features, such as device storage or accessibility services. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and refrain from granting excessive permissions.

    Stay Updated

    Keep your device’s operating system and applications up to date with the latest security patches and software updates. These updates often contain fixes for known vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cybercriminals.

    Opt for Web-Based Services

    You may sidestep the whole issue of trojan apps by switching to digital banking. Reputable web-based services like Fora Credit offer the same convenience with online, browser-based options and none of the app-based security risks. You can even use your phone to access these sites. 

    Enable Security Solutions

    Consider using reputable mobile security solutions to detect and block threats in real-time. Antivirus software or anti-malware apps can provide an additional layer of defense against trojans and other forms of malware.

    Practice Vigilance

    Remain vigilant while browsing the web or using mobile apps, especially when entering sensitive information like passwords or financial details. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources, as this could lead to the inadvertent installation of malware.

    Follow this advice even if your financial institution doesn’t have an app. 

    By staying informed and adopting proactive security measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to banking app trojans and other cyber threats. Remember, when it comes to safeguarding your digital assets, vigilance is key.

    Banking on Mobile with Caution

    Banking app trojans loom large, posing as formidable challenges to people like you who just want to manage their finances with their phones. You can get out from under their shadow by following the tips you learned here today. 

    Armed with knowledge, vigilance, and proactive security measures, you can spot and avoid trojans before they sneak onto your phone. 

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