Upstream

Upstream discovers security vulnerabilities on VivaVideo

12 November 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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More than 20 million suspicious transaction requests have been linked back to the freemium Android app VivaVideo.

The transaction requests could have cost consumers more than US$27 million in unauthorised premium charges.

Discovered by Secure-D – the anti-fraud platform from Upstream which in August exposed malware on affordable phones in Africa – this latest exposé has impacted more than one million devices across 19 countries.

The VivaVideo app, a video editing and sharing app with 100 million reported downloads, has been attempting to initiate premium subscription attempts while delivering invisible ads to users in order to generate fake clicks.

Consumers in Indonesia, Egypt, Thailand, Russia and the UK were all hit with Brazil the most affected, with more than 11.5 million of the fraudulent transaction attempts. Had the fraudulent transactions not been blocked, Brazilian users could have been unwillingly and unknowingly charged $10.3 million for services and subscriptions they did not purchase.

Geoffrey Cleaves (pictured), head of Secure-D at Upstream, said: “As video sharing becomes increasingly popular in apps like TikTok and Instagram, more users are looking for ways to edit their content. However, bad actors are also scaling up their activity and technology, and they are wreaking havoc in apps like VivaVideo”.  

VivaVideo had ranked highly in lists of suspicious applications before, as the app has frequently topped Secure-D’s own Mobile Malware Index, prompting further investigation. However, the latest results, shared in this most recent report, shed new light on the scale and veracity of the problem.

Speaking to Capacity in September, Cleaves said MNOS need to step up security after a series of similar scandals involving malware on devices.

Cleaves said: “This is the tip of the iceberg. The lesson is that the problem is going to get worse before it gets better, and the MNOs need a strategy. You can’t stop preinstalled malware. There are too many manufacturers involved, there is money involved, you need tools to detect it quickly and protect your subscribers as fast as possible.”

“It’s quite difficult for MNOs to face this. They really need to revaluate their anti-fraud strategy and it is not so much network intrusion detection or deep packet inspection that will help in this sense,” he added.