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Real HTML5 applications are ending up repackaged into Android malware and potentially unwanted applications, researchers said.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) finalized the fifth major version of the hypertext markup language (HTML) specification in October. HTML5 sees an increase in usage by application developers, but cybercriminals are also leveraging its capabilities in their malicious activities, said researchers at Trend Micro.

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HTML5 enables developers to build Web apps that work on any platform. This works to the advantage of developers and users who will no longer have to worry about applications that work only on certain mobile platforms. However, if developers don’t put too much effort into protecting their code, cybercriminals can copy and repackage their creations.

This year, the number of new HTML5-packaged applications for Android increased by 200 percent compared to the previous year. However, the number of potentially unwanted applications and pieces of malware also increased, with almost half of such Android threats disguised as games, Trend Micro said.

Cyber Security

According to researchers, cybercriminals can use two methods to package Android malware with HTML5 apps. The attackers can initiate a local webview to load attached or remote HTML5 code. By doing so, they obtain an Android application to which they can add their own malicious code.

Another method that can end up used involves middleware, the software layer that lies between applications and the operating system, often used to develop cross-platform programs. Bad guys can use development tools such as Apache Cordova to repackage HTML5 apps and inject them with malicious JavaScript code.

“In the foreseeable future we may be seeing a type of malware that can hit different mobile platforms (such as: iOS, Android, Windows Phone) all at the same time. To prevent from this, developers need to spend more efforts on code obfuscation or other coding tricks to secure their apps. Home users also need to take care of new app installations by only downloading from official app stores,” said Trend Micro mobile threats analyst Seven Shen in a blog post.

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