Adversaries may establish persistence using system mechanisms that trigger execution based on specific events. Mobile operating systems have means to subscribe to events such as receiving an SMS message, device boot completion, or other device activities.
An intent is a message passed between Android applications or system components. Applications can register to receive broadcast intents at runtime, which are system-wide intents delivered to each app when certain events happen on the device, such as network changes or the user unlocking the screen. Malicious applications can then trigger certain actions within the app based on which broadcast intent was received.
In addition to Android system intents, malicious applications can register for intents broadcasted by other applications. This allows the malware to respond based on actions in other applications. This behavior typically indicates a more intimate knowledge, or potentially the targeting of specific devices, users, or applications.
In Android 8 (API level 26), broadcast intent behavior was changed, limiting the implicit intents that applications can register for in the manifest. In most cases, applications that register through the manifest will no longer receive the broadcasts. Now, applications must register context-specific broadcast receivers while the user is actively using the app.
FlexiSpy uses root access to establish reboot hooks to re-install the application from
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SimBad registers for the
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Android 8 introduced additional limitations on the implicit intents that an application can register for.
Application vetting services can detect which broadcast intents an application registers for and which permissions it requests.