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Showing posts with label Android Spyware. Show all posts

Iranian APT42 Launched Over 30 Espionage Attacks Across 14 Nations

 

Cybersecurity firm Mandiant has attributed over 30 cyber espionage attacks against activists and dissidents to the state-backed Iranian threat group APT42 (formerly UNC788) with activity dating back to 2015, at least. 

Based on APT42’s activities, the researchers believe the hacking group operates on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Intelligence Organization (IRGC-IO), not to mention shares partial overlaps with another Iran-linked APT group tracked as APT35 (aka Charming Kitten, Phosphorus, Newscaster, and Ajax Security Team). 

The APT group has targeted multiple industries such as non-profits, education, governments, healthcare, legal, manufacturing, media, and pharmaceuticals spanning across 14 nations, including in Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S. 

“APT42 activity poses a threat to foreign policy officials, commentators, and journalists, particularly those in the US, the UK, and Israel, working on Iran-related projects,” reads the report published by Mandiant. "Additionally, the group’s surveillance activity highlights the real-world risk to individual targets of APT42 operations, which include Iranian dual-nationals, former government officials, and dissidents both inside Iran and those who previously left the country, often out of fear for their personal safety.” 

The Iranian hackers are primarily focused on cyber-espionage, employing highly targeted spear-phishing and social engineering methodologies to access personal and corporate email accounts, or to deploy Android malware on mobile devices. 

The APT group also has the capability of siphoning two-factor authentication codes to circumvent more secure authentication methods, and sometimes leverages this access to target employers, colleagues, and relatives of the initial victim. However, while credential theft is favored, the group has also deployed multiple custom backdoors and lightweight tools to target firms. 

Last year in September, the Iranian hackers accessed a European government email account and exploited it to send a phishing email to nearly 150 email addresses linked with individuals or entities employed by or associated with civil society, government, or intergovernmental organizations across the globe. The phishing mail embedded a Google Drive link to a malicious macro document leading to TAMECAT, a PowerShell toehold backdoor. 

Additionally, the researchers have uncovered multiple similarities in “intrusion activity clusters” between APT42 and another Iran-linked hacking group, UNC2448, which has been known in the past to scan for vulnerabilities and even deploy BitLocker ransomware. 

“While Mandiant has not observed technical overlaps between APT42 and UNC2448, the latter may also have ties to the IRGC-IO,” Mandiant explained. "We assess with moderate confidence that UNC2448 and the Revengers Telegram persona are operated by at least two Iranian front companies, Najee Technology and Afkar System, based on open-source information and operational security lapses by the threat actors.”

Google Removes Several Apps From Play Store Distributing Malware

 

Earlier this week, Google blocked dozens of malicious Android apps from the official Play Store that were propagating Joker, Facestealer, and Coper malware families via the virtual marketplace. 

According to the findings from Zscaler ThreatLabz and Pradeo researchers, the Joker spyware exfiltrated SMS messages, contact lists, and device information and lured victims to sign up for premium service subscriptions. 

A total of 54 Joker downloader apps were unearthed by the two cybersecurity firms, with the apps installed cumulatively over 330,000 times. Nearly half of the apps belonged to communication (47.1%) category followed by tools (39.2%), personalization (5.9%), health and, photography. 

“The tools and communication were among the most targeted categories covering the majority of the Joker-infected apps. ThreatLabz discovered daily uploads of apps containing the Joker malware indicating the high activity level and persistence of the adversary group.” reads the blog post published by Zscaler. “Consistent with previous findings, ThreatLabz's latest discoveries belonging to the Joker malware campaign continue to follow similar developer naming patterns and use of familiar techniques.” 

ThreatLabz experts also uncovered multiple apps compromised with the Facestealer and Coper malware. 

The Facestealer spyware was first unearthed in July last year by Dr. Web researchers, and was designed to steal Facebook users’ logins and passwords and authentication tokens. 

The Coper malware is a banking trojan that targets banking applications in Europe, Australia, and South America. The hackers distribute the apps by disguising them as legitimate apps in the Google Play Store. 

“Once downloaded, this app unleashes the Coper malware infection which is capable of intercepting and sending SMS text messages, making USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) requests to send messages, keylogging, locking/unlocking the device screen, performing overly attacks, preventing uninstalls and generally allowing attackers to take control and execute commands on infected device via remote connection with a C2 server.” continues the report. 

The researchers recommended users to refrain from granting unnecessary permissions to apps and verify their authenticity by checking for developer information, reading reviews, and scrutinizing their privacy policies. If you become a victim of a malicious app from the Play Store, inform Google about it immediately through the support options in your play Store app.

New Android Spyware Linked to Russia Hacking Group Turla

 

A new Android spyware application has been spotted and detailed by a team of cybersecurity experts that records audio and tracks location once planted in the device. The spyware employs an identical shared-hosting infrastructure that was previously identified to be employed by a Russia-based hacking group known as Turla. 

However, it remains unclear whether the Russian hacking group has a direct connection with the recently identified spyware. It reaches through a malicious APK file that works as Android spyware and performs actions in the background, without giving any clear references to users. 

Researchers at threat intelligence firm Lab52 have discovered the Android spyware that is named Process Manager. Once installed, the malware removes its gear-shaped icon from the home screen and operates in the background, exploiting its wide permissions to access the device's contacts and call logs, track its location, send and read messages, access external storage, snap pictures, and record audio. 

The spyware collects all the data in JSON format and subsequently transmits it to a server located in Russia. It is not clear whether the app receives permissions by exploiting the Android Accessibility service or by luring users to grant their access. 

According to Lab52 researchers, authors of the Android spyware have exploited the referral system of an app called Roz Dhan: Earn Wallet Cash which is available for download on Google Play and has over 10 million downloads. The spyware attempts to download and install an application using a goo.gl that eventually helps malicious actors install it on the device and makes a profit out of its referral system.

It seems relatively odd for spyware since the cybercriminals seem to be focused on cyber espionage. According to Bleeping Computer, the strange behavior of downloading an app to earn commissions from its referral system suggests that spyware could be a part of a larger scheme that is yet to be uncovered. 

"The application, [which] is on Google Play and is used to earn money, has a referral system that is abused by the malware," the researchers said. "The attacker installs it on the device and makes a profit." 

To mitigate the risks, Lab52 researchers have recommended Android users avoid installing any unknown or suspicious apps on their devices. Users should also review the app permissions they grant to limit access of third parties to their hardware.

Every Tenth Stalking and Espionage Attack in the World is Directed at Android Users from Russia

 

According to analysts at ESET (an international developer of antivirus software headquartered in Slovakia), commercial developers who openly offer spyware to control spouses or children are gaining popularity. 

"ESET global telemetry data for the period from September to December 2021 shows an increase in spyware activity by more than 20%. At the same time, every tenth stalking and espionage attack in the world is directed at Android users from Russia," the company's press service reported. 

ESET threat researcher Lukas Stefanko reported that unwanted stalking software, according to him, in most cases is distributed by attackers through clones of legal applications downloaded from unofficial stores. 

Alexander Dvoryansky, Director of Special Projects at Angara Security, confirms that Android spyware is very common and continues to gain popularity. According to him, it is advantageous for attackers to develop malicious software for this operating system because of its widespread use. Android smartphones accounted for 84.5% of total device sales in 2021. 

According to Lucas Stefanko, it is not uncommon for stalker software to be installed on smartphones to track them in case they are stolen or lost. Despite Google's ban on advertising stalker apps, there are apps available on Google Play that are positioned as private detective or parental control tools. In 2018, the Supreme Court allowed the acquisition and use of spy equipment to ensure their own security, so the demand for software promoted as "monitoring one's mobile devices" has increased. But many install it covertly on the phones of relatives or employees for espionage. 

If the program is installed on the phone openly and with the consent of a person, then there will be nothing illegal in tracking geolocation, as well as obtaining other information, says lawyer KA Pen & Paper by Alexander Kharin. However, secretly installing a spyware program on a phone can result in a penalty of up to two years in prison, and for a developer, the term can be up to four years. But so far, criminal cases on the fact of stalking are rarely initiated. 

Earlier, CySecurity News reported that the exact location of any Russian on the black market can be found for about 130 dollars.

Android Spyware "Triout" Back With Spying Abilities And New Malicious Schemes






An android malware in the guise of an online privacy app, is all set to cause a lot of harm as it’s resurfaced as a more malicious version of itself and has acquired spy abilities.

The application tries to trick the users into downloading and then starts working its method.

Triout, the application is created to help users dodge censorship on the internet.

The campaign had been active since May last year, under the guise of an adult 
application.

August, 2018 is when the spyware was discovered, because of the massive amounts of information it was harvesting, including photos, text conversations, and phone conversations.

Collecting GPS information about the victims and making the user’s location vulnerable are two of the other mal effects.


With changed tactics and better malicious effects to it, the malware is being distributed under the cloaks of a stolen but legit privacy tool from Google play store.

Psiphon is the privacy tool behind whose face version Triout is hiding. This application is widely used and has been downloaded like a million times.

Third party sites also provide this app on their platforms, in case hackers don’t seem to have access to play store of Google.

The fake version of Psiphon works in exactly the same way as the real version of it. The looks and the interface have all been cleverly matched.



A particular type of set of victims is being targeted via Triout so that it doesn’t raise much suspicion.

When the malware was discovered it was found to be targeting users from Germany and South Korea.

Spear-phishing is another concept that is reportedly being employed by the cyber-cons to ensure that the users download their malicious app.

The way to lure in the victims and the commands and controls of Triout have been cunningly altered to extract a hike in the success rate.


Reportedly, the updated versions of Triout are being uploaded from various distinct locations of the world, a few being Russia, France and US.

The origin of the campaign and the cyber-cons behind it are still behind the curtain and this is what makes Triout more malicious.

According to the leading security researchers, this application possesses super spying powers and is deliberately fabricated to perform activities like espionage.

The researchers implore the users to download applications only from official sites and try to steer clear off any suspicious looking applications and refrain from downloading it.