Friday, 14 August, 2020


EFF uncovers data-stealing security bug on thousands of smartphones

EFF uncovers data-stealing security bug on thousands of smartphones EFF uncovers data-stealing security bug on thousands of smartphones
Bennie Garza | 22 January, 2018, 05:48

The hackers used malicious apps that resembled legitimate communication platforms like Signal and WhatsApp to steal the trove of data, loading up the fake versions with malware that allowed them to tap into users' conversations. Once installed, cyber criminals can use a victim's Android device to take photos, retrieve location information, record audio, and more.

"We believe the actors would use Pallas against any target a nation state would otherwise attack, including governments, militaries, utilities, financial institutions, manufacturing companies, and defense contractors", a blog post on Lookout's website explains.

"People in the US, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, and France have been hit by Dark Caracal", EFF director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin said in a statement. An espionage campaign using malware-infected messaging apps has been stealing smartphone data from activists, soldiers, lawyers, journalists and others in more than 20 countries, researchers said in a report Thursday.

"This is a very large, global campaign, focused on mobile devices", she adds. "Mobile is the future of spying, because phones are full of so much data about a person's day-to-day life". One particular trace of Dark Caracal led the researchers to a building belonging to the Lebanese General Security Directorate in Beirut.

"This suggests that Dark Caracal either uses or manages the infrastructure found to be hosting a number of widespread, global cyber-espionage campaigns", the researchers said in their report.

It's this revelation, along with the the fact numerous operation's different spying campaigns were deemed "seemingly unrelated" by researchers, that suggests Dark Caracal might be a type of government spyware "for hire", carrying out spying jobs on behalf of a variety of clients.

According to Galperin, the Dark Caracal group may be offering its spyware services to various clients, including governments, The Register reported.

EFF and Lookout began investigating Dark Caracal after EFF released its Operation Manul report, which shed light on another spying operation aimed at "journalists, activists, lawyers, and dissidents" who had spoken out against President Nursultan Nazarbayev's regime in Kazakhstan.

The campaign, which the two groups have named "Dark Caracal", accidentally outed itself by storing the stolen data on an unsecured server accessible via the internet.

"One of the interesting things about this ongoing attack is that it doesn't require a sophisticated or expensive exploit". "Instead, all Dark Caracal needed was application permissions that users themselves granted when they downloaded the apps, not realizing that they contained malware". "This research shows it's not hard to create a strategy allowing people and governments to spy on targets around the world". Through the phishing messages, victims have been redirected into downloading malware-laden Android apps or visiting a dummy Google, Facebook or Twitter domain actually under control of the hackers.

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