Stegomalware: Playing Hide and Seek with Malicious Components in Smartphone Apps

  • Guillermo Suarez-Tangil
  • Juan E. Tapiador
  • Pedro Peris-Lopez
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8957)


We discuss a class of smartphone malware that uses steganographic techniques to hide malicious executable components within their assets, such as documents, databases, or multimedia files. In contrast with existing obfuscation techniques, many existing information hiding algorithms are demonstrably secure, which would make such stegomalware virtually undetectable by static analysis techniques. We introduce various types of stegomalware attending to the location of the hidden payload and the components required to extract it. We demonstrate its feasibility with a prototype implementation of a stegomalware app that has remained undetected in Google Play so far. We also address the question of whether steganographic capabilities are already being used for malicious purposes. To do this, we introduce a detection system for stegomalware and use it to analyze around 55 K apps retrieved from both malware sources and alternative app markets. Our preliminary results are not conclusive, but reveal that many apps do incorporate steganographic code and that there is a substantial amount of hidden content embedded in app assets.


Smartphone security Malware Steganography  Obfuscation 



We are very grateful to the anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback and insightful suggestions that helped to improve the quality of the original manuscript. This work was supported by the MINECO grant TIN2013-46469-R (SPINY: Security and Privacy in the Internet of You).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guillermo Suarez-Tangil
    • 1
  • Juan E. Tapiador
    • 1
  • Pedro Peris-Lopez
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversidad Carlos III de MadridLeganes, MadridSpain

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