Deep-dive Analysis of S.O.V.A. Android Banking Trojan

Cyble Research Labs came across a blog post on the darkweb regarding an Android Banking Trojan named S.O.V.A during our routine threat hunting exercise. The post was made by an unknown Threat Actor (TA) as an advertisement on the forum. The TA also mentions that the trojan is under development. Figure 1 shows the post by Threat Actor (TA) on the forum. 

Figure 1: Screenshot from S.O.V.A. blog in forum 

According to the post, S.O.V.A. (“owl” in Russian) is a new Android banking trojan under active development. The TA has also mentioned that the trojan currently works on Android version 7 – 11. The TA plans to upgrade the bot to work on Android 12 as well. 

The TA is planning incorporate Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), Man in the Middle (MiTM) and ransomware functionalities into S.O.V.A. The features in the current version of S.O.V.A. malware are listed below: 

  1. Standard data available in the device  
  1. Send SMS  
  1. Send inject PUSH  
  1. Send a cookie PUSH  
  1. Send U.S.S.D.  
  1. Standard Injections  
  1. 3-Stage Injections  
  1. Cookie Injections (Session Grabber)  
  1. Automatic Injections  
  1. Credit Card Injections have a CC check for validity. The victim will not be able to enter incorrect data.  
  1. Covert SMS Interception  
  1. Covert PUSH Interception  
  1. Keylogger  
  1. Delete Application  

The TA is also planning to add the following features in future variants:  

  1. Automatic 3-stage Injections  
  1. Automatic Cookie Injections  
  1. Complete Normal Clipper  
  1. DDOS  
  1. GIF Accessibility  
  1. Improving Panel Performance  
  1. Mini Ransomware with Card Insertion  
  1. Interception of Internet packets (packet capture, “MITM”)  
  1. Normal PUSH Notifications  
  1. Many Injections  
  1. V.N.C.  
  1. Interception of 2FA  

Technical Analysis 

APK Metadata Information 

APK File Info 

  • App Name: Flash Player 
  • Package Name: com.adobe.flashplayer 
  • SHA256 Hash: 8a6889610a18296e812fabd0a4ceb8b75caadc5cec1b39e8173c3e0093fd3a57 

The figure below shows the metadata information of the sample 

Figure 2: APK Metadata Information

The malware sample is disguising itself as Adobe Flash player as shown in the above figure, 

Manifest File Description 

The fake Flash Player app requests 21 different permissions, of which the T.A. can abuse 12. The dangerous permissions requested by the malware are listed below. 

Permission Name Description 
READ_CONTACTS Access to phone contacts  
READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE Access device external storage 
WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE Modify device external storage 
READ_PHONE_STATE  Access phone state and information  
RECORD_AUDIO Allows to record audio using device microphone 
CALL_PHONE Perform call without user intervention 
READ_CALL_LOG Access user’s call logs 
READ_SMS Access user’s SMSs stored in the device 
RECEIVE_MMS Fetch and process M.M.S. messages 
RECEIVE_SMS Fetch and process SMS messages 
SEND_SMS Allows the app to send SMS messages 
SYSTEM_ALERT_WINDOW Allows to display system-alerts over other apps 
WRITE_SMS Modify or Delete SMSs stored in Database 

Table 1: APK Permission List 

Upon inspecting the Android components declared in the manifest, we identified the activity class that is initiated on starting the app from the icon. The declaration of the activity is shown in Figure 3. 

Figure 3: Launcher activity declared in Manifest file

We also observed that the permissions, activity classes, and services declared in the manifest file allows the malware to replace the Messages app on the device. Upon receiving permission to act as the default messaging app, the S.O.V.A. trojan will be able to handle, send and receive SMS and M.M.S. messages from the infected device. Refer to Figure 4. 

Figure 4: Declaration of the permission, service, receiver for receiving SMSs and MMSs 

The S.O.V.A. malware has also declared permissions to handle device notifications in the Android manifest file. It abuses this capability to read and modify notifications received on the device. Upon enabling this, the banking trojan will be able to intercept all notifications such as OTPs, personal messages, etc. The permission declaration is shown in the figure below. 

Figure 5: Manifest declaration for Notification listener

The figure below shows that the malware requests the user for the BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_PERMISSION. This permission allows apps to access a powerful service running on the Android device called Accessibility Service.  

Figure 6: Manifest declaration for BindAccessibility service 

Accessibility Service is a background service running in the device which is used to aid users with disabilities. Malware such as Banking trojansRemote Access Trojans (R.A.T.s) and Spyware abuse this service to intercept and monitor all activities happening on the device screen. Examples of this are the ability to intercept the credentials being entered on another app. 

Initial Stage Behavior 

The figure below shows the various activities performed by S.O.V.A. malware. 

Figure 7: Flow diagram of S.O.V.A. malware’s Initial Stage behavior 

The three stages shown in Figure 7 are: 

  1. Prior to launch, the malware does not have any permission : No Notification listener permission and no other dangerous permissions 
  1. Once the victim starts the app, the malware requests the user to enable Accessibility permission: Upon enabling the Accessibility permission, the malware enables all the requested permissions, hides the icon from user’s home screen, requests the victim to make the fake Flash player as the default messaging app, and blocks the victim from accessing the malicious app’s Settings page. This is done to restrict the user from modifying the malware’s capabilities such as permissions. 

Source Code Analysis 

The S.O.V.A. malware has created a background service called, RequestService, which communicates with the Command and Control (C&C) server and performs malicious activities based on the commands received from the server as shown below. 

Figure 8: Code where C&C commands are verified

The commands from the C&C server are: 

Command Description 
startddos Initiate DDoS  
stealer Steal Session Cookie of an app  
hidensms Hide received SMS from notification 
starthidenpush Hide push notifications 
delbot Delete the bot from device 
getlog Upload key logged data 
startkeylog Clears old key log and initiate 
scaninject Update targeted application list 
stopkeylog Stop keylogging 
openinject Open WebView with the URL from C&C 
stophidenpush Stop hiding push notifications 
sendpush Display Push notification to start WebView Injection 
stophidensms Stop hiding received SMSs 
stopddos Stop DDoS  
stopscan Stop scan for new app targets 
stealerpush Same as sendpush command 
sendsms Send SMS message 

Table 2: S.O.V.A. Malware Commands List 

The S.O.V.A. malware creates listeners for events on the device, such as boot complete, SMS received, etc. The malware communicates with the C&C server whenever these listeners are triggered. The malware also sends the details of the event along with the data as shown in code in Figure 9.  

Figure 9: Code to Upload data based on Events 

S.O.V.A. malware constantly monitors the device screen for targeted applications. The targeted applications are stored in the packageList.txt file in the assets folder. The below figure shows the file with the list of targeted apps. 

Figure 10: Subset of Targeted App list in packageList.txt 

Whenever the user opens a target application, the malware creates an overlay using the WebView with the link provided by C&C server.  

The targeted apps include banking apps, cryptocurrency apps etc. The TA can also add new apps to target based on their requirements. 

The malware uses Accessibility to monitor the victim’s device screen. The code used by the malware to monitor the screen for targeted apps is shown in the figure below. 

Figure 11: Code to monitor device screen and start the overlay 

The below figure shows the code create overlay screen over the targeted application.  

Figure 12: Code to create overlay using WebVIew and to steal the cookie 

In the overlay screen, the victim will be displayed a fake login page of the targeted application. Upon login, the malware steals the cookies using the CookieManager and CookieSyncManager features, the code for which is shown in Figure 12. The trojan also has the capability to send SMS messages to the number provided by the C&C server. The code to send SMSs is shown in the below figure. 

Figure 13: Code to send SMS messages based on C&C command 

The trojan registers a service for monitoring the clipboard changes. The code used by the malware for clipboard monitoring is shown in figure 14. 

Figure 14: Code to Capture Clipboard Contents 

The S.O.V.A. malware also has the capability to perform DDoS attacks on a specific public server which is provided as a command from C&C server. The target of the DDoS attacks is shared by the TA.   

The malware hides the C&C server URL using Base64 encoding as shown in the below figure. 

Figure 15: C&C URL encoded using Base64 

C&C Server URL: hxxp://a0545193.xsph[.]ru 

The C&C endpoint methods used by the S.O.V.A. malware: 

  • /api – Main API endpoint method 
  • /keylog.php – Keylog stealing method 
  • /testpost.php – send stolen cookies 
  • /logpost.php – send logs 

The below code shows the C&C endpoint methods used by the malware 

Figure 16: Code with C&C Endpoint methods 

We also observed that the malware author is planning include Telegram as C&C. This behavior is similar to the recent Banking Trojan called Aberebot. The code below shows the Telegram API URL included in the malware. 

Figure 17: Telegram API URL in Malware’s code

The targeted application list in assets/packageList.txt is shown below.  

Targeted Application List 
Table 3: Targeted Application List 


According to our research, there is a substantial increase in the amount of Android Banking Trojans emerging of late. We have also observed that the malware authors are incorporating new technology to steal information and money from victims. S.O.V.A. is the latest example of this shift in trends.  

S.O.V.A. malware uses the same techniques used by other Android Banking Trojans such as Aberebot, Cerberus etc. Alongside being a Banking Trojan, the new trojan offers the capability to perform DDoS attacks, cookie stealing, hiding notifications etc,. The author has mentioned that they plan to incorporate other dangerous features such as ransomware. 

These trojans can be avoided by following some basic cyber hygiene practices on mobile devices. 

Our Recommendations  

We have listed some of the essential cybersecurity best practices that create the first line of control against attackers. We recommend that our readers follow the best practices given below:     

  1. If you find this malware in your device, uninstall using adb uninstall or perform a factory reset. 
  1. Use the shared IoCs to monitor and block the malware infection.   
  1. Keep your anti-virus software updated to detect and remove malicious software.   
  1. Keep your Operating System and applications updated to the latest versions.   
  1. Use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication.   
  1. Download and install software only from registered app stores.   

MITRE ATT&CK® Techniques 

Tactic  Technique ID  Technique Name 
Defense Evasion T1406 Obfuscated Files or Information 
Credential Access T1414 Capture Clipboard Data 
 Discovery T1421
System Network Connections Discovery 
Location Tracking 
Process Discovery 
 Collection T1507
Network Information Discovery 
Capture SMS Messages 
Access Contact List 
Capture Audio 
Command and Control T1571
Non-Standard Port 
Encrypted Channel 
Impact T1447 Delete Device Data 

Indicators of Compromise (IoCs):   

Indicators Indicator type Description 
8a6889610a18296e812fabd0a4ceb8b75caadc5cec1b39e8173c3e0093fd3a57 SHA256 Hash of the APK sample 
efb92fb17348eb10ba3a93ab004422c30bcf8ae72f302872e9ef3263c47133a7 SHA256 Hash of the second APK sample 
795b279f312a773f7f556a978387f1b682f93470db4c1b5f9cd6ca2cab1399b6 SHA256 Hash of the third APK sample 
dd8a5a1a8632d661f152f435b7afba825e474ec0d03d1c5ef8669fdc2b484165 SHA256 Hash of the fourth APK sample 
hxxp://a0545193.xsph[.]ru URL C&C URL 
hxxp://l8j1nsk3j5h1msal973nk37[.]fun URL C&C URL of another sample 

About Us 

Cyble is a global threat intelligence SaaS provider that helps enterprises protect themselves from cybercrimes and exposure in the Darkweb. Its prime focus is to provide organizations with real-time visibility to their digital risk footprint. Backed by Y Combinator as part of the 2021 winter cohort, Cyble has also been recognized by Forbes as one of the top 20 Best Cybersecurity Start-ups To Watch In 2020. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, and with offices in Australia, Singapore, and India, Cyble has a global presence. To learn more about Cyble, visit  

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