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The Hacker News - Cybersecurity News and Analysis: spyware

Pegasus Spyware Reportedly Hacked iPhones of U.S. State Department and Diplomats

Pegasus Spyware Reportedly Hacked iPhones of U.S. State Department and Diplomats
December 04, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Apple reportedly notified several U.S. Embassy and State Department employees that their iPhones may have been targeted by an unknown assailant using state-sponsored spyware created by the controversial Israeli company NSO Group, according to multiple reports from  Reuters  and  The Washington Post . At least 11 U.S. Embassy officials stationed in Uganda or focusing on issues pertaining to the country are said to have  singled out  using iPhones registered to their overseas phone numbers, although the identity of the threat actors behind the intrusions, or the nature of the information sought, remains unknown as yet. The attacks, which were carried out in the last several months, mark the first known time the sophisticated surveillance software has been put to use against U.S. government employees. NSO Group is the maker of Pegasus , military-grade spyware that allows its government clients to stealthily plunder files and photos, eavesdrop on conversations, and track the whereabou

New Chinotto Spyware Targets North Korean Defectors, Human Rights Activists

New Chinotto Spyware Targets North Korean Defectors, Human Rights Activists
November 29, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
North Korean defectors, journalists who cover North Korea-related news, and entities in South Korea are being zeroed in on by a nation-state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) as part of a new wave of highly-targeted surveillance attacks. Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky attributed the infiltrations to a North Korean hacker group tracked as  ScarCruft , also known as  APT37 , Reaper Group, InkySquid, and Ricochet Chollima. "The actor utilized three types of malware with similar functionalities: versions implemented in PowerShell, Windows executables and Android applications," the company's Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT)  said  in a new report published today. "Although intended for different platforms, they share a similar command and control scheme based on HTTP communication. Therefore, the malware operators can control the whole malware family through one set of command and control scripts." Likely active since at least 2012, ScarC

Israel Bans Sales of Hacking and Surveillance Tools to 65 Countries

Israel Bans Sales of Hacking and Surveillance Tools to 65 Countries
November 25, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Israel's Ministry of Defense has dramatically restricted the number of countries to which cybersecurity firms in the country are allowed to sell offensive hacking and surveillance tools to, cutting off 65 nations from the export list. The revised list, details of which were first reported by the Israeli business newspaper  Calcalist , now only includes 37 countries, down from the previous 102: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S. Notably missing from the list are countries such as Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E, which have been previously identified as customers of Israeli spyware vendor NSO Group. In curtailing the exports, the move effecti

APT C-23 Hackers Using New Android Spyware Variant to Target Middle East Users

APT C-23 Hackers Using New Android Spyware Variant to Target Middle East Users
November 24, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A threat actor known for striking targets in the Middle East has evolved its Android spyware yet again with enhanced capabilities that allow it to be stealthier and more persistent while passing off as seemingly innocuous app updates to stay under the radar. The new variants have "incorporated new features into their malicious apps that make them more resilient to actions by users, who might try to remove them manually, and to security and web hosting companies that attempt to block access to, or shut down, their command-and-control server domains," Sophos threat researcher Pankaj Kohli  said  in a report published Tuesday. Also known by the monikers  VAMP ,  FrozenCell ,  GnatSpy , and  Desert Scorpion , the mobile spyware has been a preferred tool of choice for the APT-C-23 threat group since at least 2017, with  successive iterations  featuring extended surveillance functionality to vacuum files, images, contacts and call logs, read notifications from messaging apps, r

Researchers Discover PhoneSpy Malware Spying on South Korean Citizens

Researchers Discover PhoneSpy Malware Spying on South Korean Citizens
November 10, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An ongoing mobile spyware campaign has been uncovered snooping on South Korean residents using a family of 23 malicious Android apps to siphon sensitive information and gain remote control of the devices. "With more than a thousand South Korean victims, the malicious group behind this invasive campaign has had access to all the data, communications, and services on their devices," Zimperium researcher Aazim Yaswant said. "The victims were broadcasting their private information to the malicious actors with zero indication that something was amiss." The Dallas-based mobile security company dubbed the campaign " PhoneSpy ." Zimperium did not attribute the spyware to a known threat actor. "The evidence surrounding PhoneSpy shows a familiar framework that has been passed around for years, updated by individuals and shared within private communities and back channels until assembled into what we see in this variation today," Richard Melick, the co

US Sanctions Pegasus-maker NSO Group and 3 Others For Selling Spyware

US Sanctions Pegasus-maker NSO Group and 3 Others For Selling Spyware
November 03, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday added four companies, including Israel-based spyware companies NSO Group and Candiru , to a list of entities engaging in "malicious cyber activities." The agency said the two companies were added to the list based on evidence that "these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers." "These tools have also enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists, and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent," the Commerce Department  said . Two other firms on the list include Singapore-based Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE. LTD . and Russia's Positive Technologies , the latter of which was already  sanctioned  by the U.S. Depa

NYT Journalist Repeatedly Hacked with Pegasus after Reporting on Saudi Arabia

NYT Journalist Repeatedly Hacked with Pegasus after Reporting on Saudi Arabia
October 24, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The iPhone of New York Times journalist Ben Hubbard was repeatedly hacked with NSO Group's Pegasus spyware tool over a three-year period stretching between June 2018 to June 2021, resulting in infections twice in July 2020 and June 2021. The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, which  publicized  the findings on Sunday, said the "targeting took place while he was reporting on Saudi Arabia, and writing a book about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman." The research institute did not attribute the infiltrations to a specific government. In a  statement  shared with Hubbard, the Israeli company denied its involvement in the hacks and dismissed the findings as "speculation," while noting that the journalist was not "a target of Pegasus by any of NSO's customers." To date, NSO Group is believed to have leveraged at least three different iOS exploits — namely an iMessage zero-click exploit in December 2019, a  KISMET  exploit targeting iOS 13

Indian-Made Mobile Spyware Targeted Human Rights Activist in Togo

Indian-Made Mobile Spyware Targeted Human Rights Activist in Togo
October 11, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
A prominent Togolese human rights defender has been targeted with spyware by a threat actor known for striking victims in South Asia, marking the hacking group's first foray into digital surveillance in Africa. Amnesty International tied the covert attack campaign to a collective tracked as " Donot Team " (aka APT-C-35), which has been linked to cyber offensives in India and Pakistan, while also identifying apparent evidence coupling the group's infrastructure to an Indian company called Innefu Labs. The unnamed activist is believed to have targeted over a period of two months starting in December 2019 with the help of fake Android applications and spyware-loaded emails. "The persistent attacks over WhatsApp and email tried to trick the victim into installing a malicious application that masqueraded as a secure chat application," Amnesty International  said  in a report published last week. "The application was in fact a piece of custom Android spywa

Apple Issues Urgent Updates to Fix New Zero-Day Linked to Pegasus Spyware

Apple Issues Urgent Updates to Fix New Zero-Day Linked to Pegasus Spyware
September 13, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Apple has released  iOS 14.8, iPadOS 14.8 ,  watchOS 7.6.2 ,  macOS Big Sur 11.6 , and  Safari 14.1.2  to fix two actively exploited vulnerabilities, one of which defeated extra security protections built into the operating system. The list of two flaws is as follows - CVE-2021-30858  (WebKit) - A use after free issue that could result in arbitrary code execution when processing maliciously crafted web content. The flaw has been addressed with improved memory management. CVE-2021-30860  (CoreGraphics) - An integer overflow vulnerability that could lead to arbitrary code execution when processing a maliciously crafted PDF document. The bug has been remediated with improved input validation. "Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited," the iPhone maker noted in its advisory. The updates arrive weeks after researchers from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab revealed details of a zero-day exploit called " FORCEDENTRY "

FTC Bans Stalkerware App SpyFone; Orders Company to Erase Secretly Stolen Data

FTC Bans Stalkerware App SpyFone; Orders Company to Erase Secretly Stolen Data
September 01, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday banned a stalkerware app company called SpyFone from the surveillance business over concerns that it stealthily harvested and shared data on people's physical movements, phone use, and online activities that were then used by stalkers and domestic abusers to monitor potential targets. "SpyFone is a brazen brand name for a surveillance business that helped stalkers steal private information,"  said  Samuel Levine, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "The stalkerware was hidden from device owners, but was fully exposed to hackers who exploited the company's slipshod security. This case is an important reminder that surveillance-based businesses pose a significant threat to our safety and security." Calling out the app developers for its lack of basic security practices, the agency has also ordered SpyFone to delete the illegally harvested information and notify devic

Hackers Spread BIOPASS Malware via Chinese Online Gambling Sites

Hackers Spread BIOPASS Malware via Chinese Online Gambling Sites
July 12, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers are warning about a new malware that's striking online gambling companies in China via a watering hole attack to deploy either Cobalt Strike beacons or a previously undocumented Python-based backdoor called BIOPASS RAT that takes advantage of Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) Studio's live-streaming app to capture the screen of its victims. The attack involves deceiving gaming website visitors into downloading a malware loader camouflaged as a legitimate installer for popular-but-deprecated apps such as Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft Silverlight, only for the loader to act as a conduit for fetching next-stage payloads. Specifically, the websites' online support chat pages are booby-trapped with malicious JavaScript code, which is used to deliver the malware to the victims. "BIOPASS RAT possesses basic features found in other malware, such as file system assessment, remote desktop access, file exfiltration, and shell command execution,&quo

Experts Uncover Yet Another Chinese Spying Campaign Aimed at Southeast Asia

Experts Uncover Yet Another Chinese Spying Campaign Aimed at Southeast Asia
June 03, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
An ongoing cyber-espionage operation with suspected ties to China has been found targeting a Southeast Asian government to deploy spyware on Windows systems while staying under the radar for more than three years. "In this campaign, the attackers utilized the set of Microsoft Office exploits and loaders with anti-analysis and anti-debugging techniques to install a previously unknown backdoor on victim's machines," researchers from Check Point Research said in a report published today. The infection chain works by sending decoy documents, impersonating other entities within the government, to multiple members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, when opened, retrieves a next-stage payload from the attacker's server that contains an encrypted downloader. The downloader, in turn, gathers and exfiltrates system information to a remote server that subsequently responds back with a shellcode loader. The use of weaponized copies of legitimate-looking official doc

Facebook Busts Palestinian Hackers' Operation Spreading Mobile Spyware

Facebook Busts Palestinian Hackers' Operation Spreading Mobile Spyware
April 21, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Facebook on Wednesday said it took steps to dismantle malicious activities perpetrated by two state-sponsored hacking groups operating out of Palestine that abused its platform to distribute malware. The social media giant attributed the attacks to a network connected to the Preventive Security Service ( PSS ), the security apparatus of the State of Palestine, and another threat actor known as Arid Viper (aka Desert Falcon and APT-C-23), the latter of which is alleged to be connected to the cyber arm of Hamas. The two digital espionage campaigns, active in 2019 and 2020, exploited a range of devices and platforms, such as Android, iOS, and Windows, with the PSS cluster primarily targeting domestic audiences in Palestine. The other set of attacks went after users in the Palestinian territories and Syria and, to a lesser extent Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Libya. Both the groups appear to have leveraged the platform as a springboard to launch a variety of social engineering attacks in

A New Software Supply‑Chain Attack Targeted Millions With Spyware

A New Software Supply‑Chain Attack Targeted Millions With Spyware
February 01, 2021Ravie Lakshmanan
Cybersecurity researchers today disclosed a new supply chain attack targeting online gamers by compromising the update mechanism of NoxPlayer, a free Android emulator for PCs and Macs. Dubbed " Operation NightScout " by Slovak cybersecurity firm ESET, the highly-targeted surveillance campaign involved distributing three different malware families via tailored malicious updates to selected victims based in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka. NoxPlayer, developed by Hong Kong-based BigNox, is an Android emulator that allows users to play mobile games on PC, with support for keyboard, gamepad, script recording, and multiple instances. It is  estimated  to have over 150 million users in more than 150 countries. First signs of the ongoing attack are said to have originated around September 2020, from when the compromise continued until "explicitly malicious activity" was uncovered on January 25, prompting ESET to report the incident to BigNox. "Based on the comp

Iranian RANA Android Malware Also Spies On Instant Messengers

Iranian RANA Android Malware Also Spies On Instant Messengers
December 07, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
A team of researchers today unveiled previously undisclosed capabilities of an Android spyware implant—developed by a sanctioned Iranian threat actor—that could let attackers spy on private chats from popular instant messaging apps, force Wi-Fi connections, and auto-answer calls from specific numbers for purposes of eavesdropping on conversations. In  September , the US Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on APT39 (aka Chafer, ITG07, or Remix Kitten) — an Iranian threat actor backed by the country's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) — for carrying out malware campaigns targeting Iranian dissidents, journalists, and international companies in the telecom and travel sectors. Coinciding with the sanctions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a public threat analysis  report  describing several tools used by Rana Intelligence Computing Company, which operated as a front for the malicious cyber activities conducted by the APT39 group. Formally lin

Watch Out! New Android Banking Trojan Steals From 112 Financial Apps

Watch Out! New Android Banking Trojan Steals From 112 Financial Apps
November 09, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
Four months after security researchers uncovered a " Tetrade " of four Brazilian banking Trojans targeting financial institutions in Brazil, Latin America, and Europe, new findings show that the criminals behind the operation have expanded their tactics to infect mobile devices with spyware. According to Kaspersky's Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT), the Brazil-based threat group Guildma has deployed " Ghimob ," an Android banking Trojan targeting financial apps from banks, fintech companies, exchanges, and cryptocurrencies in Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Germany, Angola, and Mozambique. "Ghimob is a full-fledged spy in your pocket: once infection is completed, the hacker can access the infected device remotely, completing the fraudulent transaction with the victim's smartphone, so as to avoid machine identification, security measures implemented by financial institutions and all their anti-fraud behavioral systems," the cybersecur

Police Raided German Spyware Company FinFisher Offices

Police Raided German Spyware Company FinFisher Offices
October 14, 2020Swati Khandelwal
German investigating authorities have raided the offices of Munich-based company FinFisher that sells the infamous commercial surveillance spyware dubbed 'FinSpy,' reportedly in suspicion of illegally exporting the software to abroad without the required authorization. Investigators from the German Customs Investigation Bureau (ZKA), ordered by the Munich Public Prosecutor's Office, searched a total of 15 properties in Munich, including business premises of FinFisher GmbH, two other business partners, as well as the private apartments of the managing directors, along with a partner company in Romania from October 6 to 8. For those unaware, FinSpy is extremely powerful spying software that is being sold as a legal law enforcement tool to governments around the world but has also been found in use by oppressive and dubious regimes to spy on activists, political dissidents and journalists. FinSpy malware can target both desktop and mobile operating systems, including And

FinSpy Spyware for Mac and Linux OS Targets Egyptian Organisations

FinSpy Spyware for Mac and Linux OS Targets Egyptian Organisations
September 25, 2020Mohit Kumar
Amnesty International today exposed details of a new surveillance campaign that targeted Egyptian civil society organizations with previously undisclosed versions of FinSpy spyware designed to target Linux and macOS systems. Developed by a German company , FinSpy is extremely powerful spying software that is being sold as a legal law enforcement tool to governments around the world but has also been found in use by oppressive and dubious regimes to spy on activists. FinSpy, also known as FinFisher, can target both desktop and mobile operating systems, including Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux, to gain spying capabilities, including secretly turning on their webcams and microphones, recording everything the victim types on the keyboard, intercepting calls, and exfiltration of data. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International , the newly discovered campaign is not linked to 'NilePhish,' a hacking group known for attacking Egyptian NGOs in a ser

Iranian Hackers Pose as Journalists to Trick Victims Into Installing Malware

Iranian Hackers Pose as Journalists to Trick Victims Into Installing Malware
August 28, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
An Iranian cyberespionage group known for targeting government, defense technology, military, and diplomacy sectors is now impersonating journalists to approach targets via LinkedIn and WhatsApp and infect their devices with malware. Detailing the new tactics of the "Charming Kitten" APT group, Israeli firm Clearsky said, "starting July 2020, we have identified a new TTP of the group, impersonating 'Deutsche Welle' and the 'Jewish Journal' using emails alongside WhatsApp messages as their main platform to approach the target and convince them to open a malicious link." This development is the first time the threat actor is said to have carried out a watering hole attack through WhatsApp and LinkedIn, which also includes making phone calls to victims, Clearsky noted in a Thursday analysis. After the company alerted Deutsche Welle about the impersonation and the watering hole in their website, the German broadcaster confirmed, "the repor

7 Ways Hackers and Scammers Are Exploiting Coronavirus Panic

7 Ways Hackers and Scammers Are Exploiting Coronavirus Panic
April 09, 2020Ravie Lakshmanan
In our previous stories, you might have already read about various campaigns warning how threat actors are capitalizing on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to infect your computers and mobile devices with malware or scam you out of your money. Unfortunately, to some extent, it's working, and that's because the attack surface is changing and expanding rapidly as many organizations and business tasks are going digital without much preparation, exposing themselves to more potential threats. Most of the recent cyberattacks are primarily exploiting the fears around the COVID-19 outbreak—fueled by disinformation and fake news—to distribute malware via Google Play apps , malicious links and attachments, and execute ransomware attacks. Here, we took a look at some of the wide range of unseen threats rising in the digital space, powered by coronavirus-themed lures that cybercriminals are using for espionage and commercial gain. The latest development adds to a l
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