Goldoson: Privacy-invasive and Clicker Android Adware found in popular apps in South Korea

Authored by SangRyol Ryu

McAfee’s Mobile Research Team discovered a software library we’ve named Goldoson, which collects lists of applications installed, and a history of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices information, including nearby GPS locations. Moreover, the library is armed with the functionality to perform ad fraud by clicking advertisements in the background without the user’s consent. The research team has found more than 60 applications containing this third-party malicious library, with more than 100 million downloads confirmed in the ONE store and Google Play app download markets in South Korea. While the malicious library was made by someone else, not the app developers, the risk to installers of the apps remains. 

McAfee Mobile Security detects this threat as Android/Goldoson and protects customers from this and many other mobile threats. McAfee is a member of the App Defense Alliance focused on protecting users by preventing threats from reaching their devices and improving app quality across the ecosystem. We reported the discovered apps to Google, which took prompt action. Google has reportedly notified the developers that their apps are in violation of Google Play policies and fixes are needed to reach compliance. Some apps were removed from Google Play while others were updated by the official developers. Users are encouraged to update the apps to the latest version to remove the identified threat from their devices. 

Top 9 applications previously infected by Goldoson on Google Play

How does it affect users? 

The Goldoson library registers the device and gets remote configurations at the same time the app runs. The library name and the remote server domain varies with each application, and it is obfuscated. The name Goldoson is after the first found domain name. 

Mutating class names

Remote configuration contains the parameters for each of functionalities and it specifies how often it runs the components. Based on the parameters, the library periodically checks, pulls device information, and sends them to the remote servers. The tags such as ‘ads_enable’ or ‘collect_enableindicates each functionality to work or not while other parameters define conditions and availability. 

A response of remote configuration

A response of remote configuration

The library includes the ability to load web pages without user awareness. The functionality may be abused to load ads for financial profit. Technically, the library loads HTML code and injects it into a customized and hidden WebView and it produces hidden traffic by visiting the URLs recursively. 

Pages loaded without user perception
Pages loaded without user perception

Collected data is sent out periodically every two days but the cycle is subject to change by the remote configuration. The information contains some sensitive data including the list of installed applications, location history, MAC address of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi nearby, and more. This may allow individuals to be identified when the data is combined. The following tables show the data observed on our test device. 

Collected Data sent out in JSON format
Collected Data sent out in JSON format

Google Play considers the list of installed apps to be personal and sensitive user data and requires a special permission declaration to get it. Users with Android 11 and above are more protected against apps attempting to gather all installed apps. However, even with the recent version of Android, we found that around 10% of the apps with Goldoson have the permission “QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES” that allows them to access app information. 

Likewise, with Android 6.0 or higher, users may be asked for permissions such as Location, Storage, or Camera at runtime. If user allows the location permission, the app can access not only GPS data but also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth device information nearby. Based on BSSID (Basic Service Set Identifier) and RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator), the application can determine the location of the device more accurately than GPS, especially indoors. 

A demo of runtime permission request

Where do the apps come from?

The infected applications come from various Android application stores. More than 100 million downloads have been tracked through Google Play. After that, ONE store, Korea’s leading app store, follows with about 8 million installations. 


As applications continue to scale in size and leverage additional external libraries, it is important to understand their behavior. App developers should be upfront about libraries used and take precautions to protect users’ information. McAfee Mobile Security products can also help detect threats and protect you from not only malware but also unwanted programs. For more information, visit our McAfee Mobile Security. 

Identified Apps and Goldoson Domains



List of Apps and Current Status

Package Name  Application Name  GooglePlay Downloads  GP
Status  L.POINT with L.PAY  10M+   Updated* 
com.Monthly23.SwipeBrickBreaker  Swipe Brick Breaker  10M+  Removed** 
com.realbyteapps.moneymanagerfree  Money Manager Expense & Budget  10M+  Updated* 
com.skt.tmap.ku  TMAP – 대리,주차,전기차 충전,킥보  10M+  Updated*  롯데시네마  10M+  Updated* 
com.ktmusic.geniemusic  지니뮤직 – genie  10M+  Updated* 
com.cultureland.ver2  컬쳐랜드[컬쳐캐쉬]  5M+  Updated* 
com.gretech.gomplayerko  GOM Player  5M+  Updated* 
com.megabox.mop  메가박스(Megabox)  5M+  Removed**  LIVE Score, Real-Time Score  5M+  Updated* 
sixclk.newpiki  Pikicast  5M+  Removed** 
com.appsnine.compass  Compass 9: Smart Compass  1M+  Removed** 
com.gomtv.gomaudio  GOM Audio – Music, Sync lyrics  1M+  Updated* 
com.gretech.gomtv  TV – All About Video  1M+  Updated* 
com.guninnuri.guninday  전역일 계산기 디데이 곰신톡군인  1M+  Updated* 
com.itemmania.imiapp   아이템매니아게임 아이템 거래  1M+  Removed**  LOTTE WORLD Magicpass  1M+  Updated* 
com.Monthly23.BounceBrickBreaker  Bounce Brick Breaker  1M+  Removed** 
com.Monthly23.InfiniteSlice  Infinite Slice  1M+  Removed** 
com.pump.noraebang  나홀로 노래방쉽게 찾아 이용하는  1M+  Updated* 
com.somcloud.somnote  SomNote – Beautiful note app  1M+  Removed** 
com.whitecrow.metroid  Korea Subway Info : Metroid  1M+  Updated*  GOODTV다번역성경찬송  1M+  Removed**  해피스크린해피포인트를 모으  1M+  Updated*  UBhind: Mobile Tracker Manager  1M+  Removed**  스피드 운전면허 필기시험  1M+  Removed** 
com.wtwoo.girlsinger.worldcup  이상형 월드컵  500K+  Updated*  CU편의점택배  500K+  Removed** 
com.appsnine.audiorecorder  스마트 녹음기 : 음성 녹음기  100K+  Removed**  캣메라 [순정 무음카메라]  100K+  Removed**  컬쳐플러스:컬쳐랜드 혜택 더하기  100K+  Updated* 
com.dkworks.simple_air  창문닫아요(미세/초미세먼지/WHO …  100K+  Removed** 
com.lotteworld.ticket.seoulsky  롯데월드타워 서울스카이  100K+  Updated* 
com.Monthly23.LevelUpSnakeBall  Snake Ball Lover  100K+  Removed** 
com.nmp.playgeto  게토(geto) – PC 게이머 필수   100K+  Removed**  기억메모심플해서 좋은 메모장  100K+  Removed**  풀빵 : 광고 없는 유튜브 영상  100K+  Removed** 
com.realbyteapps.moneya  Money Manager (Remove Ads)  100K+  Updated* 
com.wishpoke.fanciticon  Inssaticon – Cute Emoticons, K  100K+  Removed** 
marifish.elder815.ecloud  클라우드런처  100K+  Updated* 
com.dtryx.scinema  작은영화관  50K+  Updated* 
com.kcld.ticketoffice  매표소뮤지컬문화공연 예매& …  50K+  Updated* 
com.lotteworld.ticket.aquarium  롯데월드 아쿠아리움  50K+  Updated* 
com.lotteworld.ticket.waterpark  롯데 워터파크  50K+  Updated* 
com.skt.skaf.l001mtm091  T map for KT, LGU+  50K+  Removed** 
org.howcompany.randomnumber  숫자 뽑기  50K+  Updated* 
com.aog.loader  로더(Loader) – 효과음 다운로드   10K+  Removed**  GOM Audio Plus – Music, Sync l  10K+  Updated* 
com.NineGames.SwipeBrickBreaker2  Swipe Brick Breaker 2  10K+  Removed** 
com.notice.safehome  안심해안심귀가 프로젝트  10K+  Removed** 
kr.thepay.chuncheon  불러봄내춘천시민을 위한 공공  …  10K+  Removed** 
com.curation.fantaholic  판타홀릭아이돌 SNS   5K+  Removed** 
com.dtryx.cinecube  씨네큐브  5K+  Updated* 
com.p2e.tia.tnt  TNT  5K+  Removed**  베스트케어위험한 전자기장, …  1K+  Removed** 
com.ninegames.solitaire  InfinitySolitaire  1K+  Removed** 
com.notice.newsafe  안심해 : 안심지도  1K+  Removed** 
com.notii.cashnote  노티아이 for 소상공인  1K+  Removed** 
com.tdi.dataone  TDI News – 최초 데이터 뉴스   1K+  Removed** 
com.ting.eyesting  눈팅여자들의 커뮤니티  500+  Removed** 
com.ting.tingsearch  팅서치 TingSearch  50+  Removed**  츄스틱 : 크리샤츄 Fantastic  50+  Removed** 
com.player.yeonhagoogokka  연하구곡  10+  Removed** 

* Updated means that the recent application on Google Play does not contain the malicious library. 

** Removed means the application is not available on Google Play as of the time of posting. 

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