Malware Inserted Into NoxPlayer Android Emulator

NoxPlayer

Image: BigNox, ZDNet

A mysterious hacking group has compromised the server infrastructure of a popular Android emulator and has delivered malware to a handful of victims across Asia in a highly-targeted supply chain attack.

The attack was discovered by Slovak security firm ESET on January 25, last week, and targeted BigNox, a company that makes NoxPlayer, a software client for emulating Android apps on Windows or macOS desktops.

ESET says that based on evidence its researchers gathered, a threat actor compromised one of the company's official API (api.bignox.com) and file-hosting servers (res06.bignox.com).

Using this access, hackers tampered with the download URL of NoxPlayer updates in the API server in order to deliver malware to NoxPlayer users.

"Three different malware families were spotted being distributed from tailored malicious updates toselected victims, with no sign of leveraging any financial gain, but rather surveillance-related capabilities," ESET said in a report shared today with ZDNet.

Despite evidence implying that attackers had access to BigNox servers since at least September 2020, ESET said the threat actor didn't target all of the company's users but instead focused on specific machines, suggesting this was a highly-targeted attack looking to infect only a certain class of users.

Until today, and based on its own telemetry, ESET said it spotted malware-laced NoxPlayer updates being delivered to only five victims, located in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka.

noxplayer-victims.png

Image: ESET

ESET has released today a report with technical details for NoxPlayers to determine if they received a malware-laced update and how to remove the malware.

A BigNox spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

This incident is also the third supply chain attack discovered by ESET over the past two months. The first is the case of Able Desktop, software used by many Mongolian government agencies. The second is the case of the VGCA, the official certificate authority of the Vietnamese government.

ESET researchers did not formally link this incident to a well-known hacking group. It is unclear if the NoxPlayer compromise is the work of a state-sponsored group or a financially-motivated group looking to compromise game developers.

ESET did, however, point out that the three malware strains deployed via malicious NoxPlayer updates had "similarities" with other malware strains used in a Myanmar presidential office website supply-chain compromise in 2018 and in early 2020 in an intrusion into a Hong Kong university.

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