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Beware: Tainted VPNs Being Used to Spread EyeSpy Surveillanceware

Beware: Tainted VPNs Being Used to Spread EyeSpy Surveillanceware
Jan 13, 2023 VPN / Surveillanceware
Tainted VPN installers are being used to deliver a piece of surveillanceware dubbed  EyeSpy  as part of a malware campaign that started in May 2022. It uses "components of SecondEye – a legitimate monitoring application – to spy on users of 20Speed VPN, an Iranian-based VPN service, via trojanized installers," Bitdefender  said  in an analysis. A majority of the infections are said to originate in Iran, with smaller detections in Germany and the U.S., the Romanian cybersecurity firm added. SecondEye, according to  snapshots  captured via the Internet Archive, claims to be a commercial monitoring software that can work as a "parental control system or as an online watchdog." As of November 2021, it's offered for sale anywhere between $99 to $200. It comes with a wide range of features that allows it to take screenshots, record microphone, log keystrokes, gather files and saved passwords from web browsers, and remotely control the machines to run arbitrary c

SpyNote Strikes Again: Android Spyware Targeting Financial Institutions

SpyNote Strikes Again: Android Spyware Targeting Financial Institutions
Jan 05, 2023 Mobile Security / Surveillance
Financial institutions are being targeted by a new version of Android malware called SpyNote at least since October 2022 that combines both spyware and banking trojan characteristics. "The reason behind this increase is that the developer of the spyware, who was previously selling it to other actors, made the source code public," ThreatFabric  said  in a report shared with The Hacker News. "This has helped other actors [in] developing and distributing the spyware, often also targeting banking institutions." Some of the notable institutions that are impersonated by the malware include Deutsche Bank, HSBC U.K., Kotak Mahindra Bank, and Nubank. SpyNote (aka SpyMax) is feature-rich and comes with a plethora of capabilities that allows it to install arbitrary; gather SMS messages, calls, videos, and audio recordings; track GPS locations; and even hinder efforts to uninstall the app. It also follows the modus operandi of other  banking   malware  by requesting for p

Facebook Cracks Down on Spyware Vendors from U.S., China, Russia, Israel, and India

Facebook Cracks Down on Spyware Vendors from U.S., China, Russia, Israel, and India
Dec 19, 2022 Cyber Attacks / Surveillance
Meta Platforms disclosed that it took down no less than 200 covert influence operations since 2017 spanning roughly 70 countries across 42 languages. The social media conglomerate also took steps to disable accounts and block infrastructure operated by spyware vendors, including in China, Russia, Israel, the U.S. and India, that targeted individuals in about 200 countries. "The global surveillance-for-hire industry continues to grow and indiscriminately target people – including journalists, activists, litigants, and political opposition – to collect intelligence, manipulate and compromise their devices and accounts across the internet," the company  noted  in a report published last week. The networks that were found to engage in coordinated inauthentic behavior ( CIB ) originated from 68 countries. More than 100 nations are said to have been targeted by at least one such network, either foreign or domestic. With 34 operations, the U.S. emerged as the most frequently ta

Google Accuses Spanish Spyware Vendor of Exploiting Chrome, Firefox, & Windows Zero-Days

Google Accuses Spanish Spyware Vendor of Exploiting Chrome, Firefox, & Windows Zero-Days
Dec 01, 2022 Threat Detection / Zero Day
A Barcelona-based surveillanceware vendor named Variston IT is said to have surreptitiously planted spyware on targeted devices by exploiting several zero-day flaws in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Windows, some of which date back to December 2018. "Their Heliconia framework exploits n-day vulnerabilities in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Defender, and provides all the tools necessary to deploy a payload to a target device," Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) researchers Clement Lecigne and Benoit Sevens  said  in a write-up. Variston, which has a  bare-bones website , claims to "offer tailor made Information Security Solutions to our customers," "design custom security patches for any kind of proprietary system," and support the "the discovery of digital information by [law enforcement agencies]," among other services. The vulnerabilities, which have been patched by Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla in 2021 and early 2022, are believed to

Experts Uncover Two Long-Running Android Spyware Campaigns Targeting Uyghurs

Experts Uncover Two Long-Running Android Spyware Campaigns Targeting Uyghurs
Nov 11, 2022
Two long-running surveillance campaigns have been found targeting the Uyghur community in China and elsewhere with Android spyware tools designed to harvest sensitive information and track their whereabouts. This encompasses a previously undocumented malware strain called BadBazaar and updated variants of an espionage artifact dubbed  MOONSHINE  by researchers from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab in September 2019. "Mobile surveillance tools like BadBazaar and MOONSHINE can be used to track many of the 'pre-criminal' activities, actions considered indicative of religious extremism or separatism by the authorities in Xinjiang," Lookout  said  in a detailed write-up of the operations. The BadBazaar campaign, according to the security firm, is said to date as far back as late 2018 and comprise 111 unique apps that masquerade as benign video players, messengers, religious apps, and even TikTok. While these samples were distributed through Uyghur-language

Experts Warn of SandStrike Android Spyware Infecting Devices via Malicious VPN App

Experts Warn of SandStrike Android Spyware Infecting Devices via Malicious VPN App
Nov 02, 2022
A previously undocumented Android spyware campaign has been found striking Persian-speaking individuals by masquerading as a seemingly harmless VPN application. Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky is tracking the campaign under the moniker  SandStrike . It has not been attributed to any particular threat group. "SandStrike is distributed as a means to access resources about the  Bahá'í religion  that are banned in Iran," the company noted in its  APT trends report  for the third quarter of 2022. While the app is ostensibly designed to provide victims with a VPN connection to bypass the ban, it's also configured to covertly siphon data from the victims' devices, such as call logs, contacts, and even connect to a remote server to fetch additional commands. The booby-trapped VPN service, while fully functional, is said to be distributed via a Telegram channel controlled by the adversary. Links to the channel are also advertised on fabricated social media acco

Researchers Uncover Years-Long Mobile Spyware Campaign Targeting Uyghurs

Researchers Uncover Years-Long Mobile Spyware Campaign Targeting Uyghurs
Sep 22, 2022
A new wave of a mobile surveillance campaign has been observed targeting the Uyghur community as part of a long-standing spyware operation active since at least 2015, cybersecurity researchers disclosed Thursday. The intrusions, originally attributed to a threat actor named  Scarlet Mimic  back in January 2016, is said to have encompassed 20 different variants of the Android malware, which were disguised as books, pictures, and an audio version of the Quran. The malware, while relatively unsophisticated from a technical standpoint, comes with extensive capabilities to steal sensitive data from an infected device, send SMS messages on the victim's behalf, make phone calls, and track their locations. Additionally, it allows the recording of incoming and outgoing phone calls as well as surrounding audio. "All this makes it a powerful and dangerous surveillance tool," Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point  said  in a technical deepdive, calling the spyware  MobileOrder

Researchers Find New Android Spyware Campaign Targeting Uyghur Community

Researchers Find New Android Spyware Campaign Targeting Uyghur Community
Sep 06, 2022
A previously undocumented strain of Android spyware with extensive information gathering capabilities has been found disguised as a book likely designed to target the  Uyghur community  in China. The malware comes under the guise of a book titled " The China Freedom Trap ," a biography written by the exiled Uyghur leader Dolkun Isa. "In light of the ongoing conflict between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Uyghur community, the malware disguised as the book is a lucrative bait employed by threat actors (TAs) to spread malicious infection in the targeted community," cybersecurity firm Cyble  said  in a report published Monday. The existence of the malware samples, which come with the package name " com.emc.pdf ," was first disclosed by researchers from the  MalwareHunterTeam  late last month. Distributed outside of the official Google Play Store, the app, once installed and opened, displays a few pages of the book, includi

Candiru Spyware Caught Exploiting Google Chrome Zero-Day to Target Journalists

Candiru Spyware Caught Exploiting Google Chrome Zero-Day to Target Journalists
Jul 22, 2022
The actively exploited but now-fixed Google Chrome zero-day flaw that came to light at the start of this month was weaponized by an Israeli spyware company and used in attacks targeting journalists in the Middle East. Czech cybersecurity firm Avast linked the exploitation to  Candiru  (aka Saito Tech), which has a history of  leveraging previously unknown flaws  to deploy a Windows malware dubbed DevilsTongue , a modular implant with  Pegasus -like capabilities. Candiru, along with NSO Group, Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE. LTD., and Positive Technologies, were  added to the entity list  by the U.S. Commerce Department in November 2021 for engaging in "malicious cyber activities." "Specifically, a large portion of the attacks took place in Lebanon, where journalists were among the targeted parties," security researcher Jan Vojtěšek, who reported the discovery of the flaw,  said  in a write-up. "We believe the attacks were highly targeted."

Experts Uncover New CloudMensis Spyware Targeting Apple macOS Users

Experts Uncover New CloudMensis Spyware Targeting Apple macOS Users
Jul 19, 2022
Cybersecurity researchers have taken the wraps off a previously undocumented spyware targeting the Apple macOS operating system. The malware, codenamed  CloudMensis  by Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET, is said to exclusively use public cloud storage services such as pCloud, Yandex Disk, and Dropbox for receiving attacker commands and exfiltrating files. "Its capabilities clearly show that the intent of its operators is to gather information from the victims' Macs by exfiltrating documents, keystrokes, and screen captures," ESET researcher Marc-Etienne M.Léveillé  said  in a report published today. CloudMensis, written in Objective-C, was first discovered in April 2022 and is designed to strike both Intel and Apple silicon architectures. The initial infection vector for the attacks and the targets remain unknown as yet. But its very limited distribution is an indication that the malware is being used as part of a highly targeted operation directed against entities of i

Pegasus Spyware Used to Hack Devices of Pro-Democracy Activists in Thailand

Pegasus Spyware Used to Hack Devices of Pro-Democracy Activists in Thailand
Jul 18, 2022
Thai activists involved in the country's pro-democracy protests have had their smartphones infected with NSO Group's infamous Pegasus government-sponsored spyware. At least 30 individuals, spanning activists, academics, lawyers, and NGO workers, are believed to have been targeted between October 2020 and November 2021, many of whom have been previously detained, arrested and imprisoned for their political activities or criticism of the government. "The timing of the infections is highly relevant to specific political events in Thailand, as well as specific actions by the Thai justice system," the Citizen Lab  said  in a Sunday report. "In many cases, for example, infections occurred slightly before protests and other political activities by the victims." The findings are the result of  threat notifications  sent by Apple last November to alert users it believes have been targeted by state-sponsored attackers. The attacks entailed the use of two zero-cl

Apple's New "Lockdown Mode" Protects iPhone, iPad, and Mac Against Spyware

Apple's New "Lockdown Mode" Protects iPhone, iPad, and Mac Against Spyware
Jul 07, 2022
Apple on Wednesday announced it plans to introduce an enhanced security setting called  Lockdown Mode  in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura to safeguard high-risk users against "highly targeted cyberattacks." The "extreme, optional protection" feature, now available for preview in beta versions of its upcoming software, is designed to counter a surge in threats posed by private companies developing state-sponsored surveillanceware such as  Pegasus ,  DevilsTongue ,  Predator , and  Hermit . Lockdown Mode, when enabled, "hardens device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware," Apple  said  in a statement. This includes blocking most message attachment types other than images and disabling link previews in Messages; rendering inoperative just-in-time ( JIT ) JavaScript compilation; removing support for shared albums in Photos; a

Google Blocks Dozens of Malicious Domains Operated by Hack-for-Hire Groups

Google Blocks Dozens of Malicious Domains Operated by Hack-for-Hire Groups
Jun 30, 2022
Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) on Thursday disclosed it had acted to block as many as 36 malicious domains operated by hack-for-hire groups from India, Russia, and the U.A.E. In a manner analogous to the  surveillanceware ecosystem , hack-for-hire firms equip their clients with capabilities to enable targeted attacks aimed at corporates as well as activists, journalists, politicians, and other high-risk users. Where the two stand apart is that while customers purchase the spyware from commercial vendors and then deploy it themselves, the operators behind hack-for-hire attacks are known to conduct the intrusions on their clients' behalf in order to obscure their role. "The hack-for-hire landscape is fluid, both in how the attackers organize themselves and in the wide range of targets they pursue in a single campaign at the behest of disparate clients," Shane Huntley, director of Google TAG,  said  in a report. "Some hack-for-hire attackers openly adver

Overview of Top Mobile Security Threats in 2022

Overview of Top Mobile Security Threats in 2022
Jun 28, 2022
Your smartphone is your daily companion. The chances are that most of our activities rely on them, from ordering food to booking medical appointments. However, the threat landscape always reminds us how vulnerable smartphones can be.  Consider the recent  discovery by Oversecured , a security startup. These experts observed the dynamic code loading and its potential dangers. Why is this a problem? Well, the Google app uses code that does not come integrated with the app itself. Okay, this might sound confusing, but it all works in favor of optimizing certain processes. Thus, Google exploits code libraries pre-installed on Android phones to reduce their download size. In fact, many Android apps use this trick to optimize the storage space needed to run.  As revealed by Oversecured, perpetrators could compromise this retrieval of code from libraries. Instead of Google obtaining code from a reliable source, it could be tricked into taking code from malicious apps operating on the devic

Google Says ISPs Helped Attackers Infect Targeted Smartphones with Hermit Spyware

Google Says ISPs Helped Attackers Infect Targeted Smartphones with Hermit Spyware
Jun 24, 2022
A week after it emerged that a sophisticated mobile spyware dubbed Hermit was used by the government of Kazakhstan within its borders, Google said it has notified Android users of infected devices. Additionally, necessary changes have been implemented in  Google Play Protect  — Android's built-in malware defense service — to protect all users, Benoit Sevens and Clement Lecigne of Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG)  said  in a Thursday report. Hermit, the work of an Italian vendor named RCS Lab, was  documented  by Lookout last week, calling out its modular feature-set and its abilities to harvest sensitive information such as call logs, contacts, photos, precise location, and SMS messages. Once the threat has thoroughly insinuated itself into a device, it's also equipped to record audio and make and redirect phone calls, besides abusing its permissions to accessibility services on Android to keep tabs on various foreground apps used by the victims. Its modularity also enab

Researchers Uncover 'Hermit' Android Spyware Used in Kazakhstan, Syria, and Italy

Researchers Uncover 'Hermit' Android Spyware Used in Kazakhstan, Syria, and Italy
Jun 17, 2022
An enterprise-grade surveillanceware dubbed Hermit has been put to use by entities operating from within Kazakhstan, Syria, and Italy over the years since 2019, new research has revealed. Lookout attributed the spy software, which is equipped to target both Android and iOS, to an Italian company named RCS Lab S.p.A and Tykelab Srl, a telecom services provider which it suspects to be a front company. The San Francisco-based cybersecurity firm said it detected the campaign aimed at Kazakhstan in April 2022. Hermit is modular and comes with myriad capabilities that allow it to "exploit a rooted device, record audio and make and redirect phone calls, as well as collect data such as call logs, contacts, photos, device location and SMS messages," Lookout researchers Justin Albrecht and Paul Shunk  said  in a new write-up. The spyware is believed to be distributed via SMS messages that trick users into installing what are seemingly innocuous apps from Samsung, Vivo, and Oppo, w
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