DotCom Reports Google Warns of iOS and Android Spyware


    Google and Lookout researchers discovered that the virus was used to target people in Italy, Kazakhstan, and Syria.

    Another goal of the research community is to raise awareness about how surveillance for hire extends well beyond the NSO. This week, at least five EU countries used the sophisticated Pegasus surveillance virus from the renowned spyware vendor NSO group. On Thursday, Threat Analysis Group and Project Zero announced the discovery of an iOS version of a malware program linked to RCS Labs, an Italian firm.

    Researchers at Google claim to have identified Android and iOS devices infected with malware in Italy and Kazakhstan. Security company Lookout disclosed discoveries last week on the Android variant of malware named “Hermit” and also ascribed to RCS Labs. According to Lookout, Italian anti-corruption investigators utilized a virus variation in 2019. Unknown entities were also determined to have exploited the malware to target persons in Syria’s northern provinces, Lookout discovered. Andy Jacob, CEO of Dotcom Magazine says, “We haven’t seen anything yet. The spyware ecosystem is goring at an alarming rate.”

    It’s crucial to exchange information about suppliers and their capabilities as the sector lacks openness. Since Google began tracking commercial spyware producers years ago, the industry has evolved dramatically from a few suppliers to an entire ecosystem, according to TAG security engineer Clement Lecigne, who spoke to WIRED about the subject. They support the spread of damaging hacking tools, empowering countries that would otherwise be unable to acquire these skills.

    Over 30 spyware businesses are being watched by TAG, which claims to have access to a wide range of technological capabilities and levels of complexity.

    To distribute the iOS virus, Google researchers observed that attackers employed a phony software that seemed to be the prominent international mobile service provider’s My Vodafone app. In both Android and iOS assaults, the attackers provided a malicious link for victims to click to trick their victims into installing what looked to be a conversation app. In some particularly dramatic cases, Google discovered that attackers may have collaborated with local ISPs to cut off a user’s mobile data connection, send them a malicious download link through SMS, and encourage them to install the fraudulent My Vodafone software via Wi-Fi with the assurance that this will restore their phone service.

    Because RCS Labs was registered with Apple’s EDP (Enterprise Developer Program), the malicious program could be disseminated without going through Apple’s standard AppStore clearance system, making it easier for attackers to spread the app.

    According to WIRED, Apple has terminated all detected accounts and certificates associated with the malware attack.

    “Enterprise certificates are designed primarily for internal use within a corporation and are not intended for mass app distribution, as they can be exploited to escape App Store and iOS security,” Apple stated in an October report on sideloading. Despite the program’s solid safeguards and modest scale, unscrupulous actors have devised ways to circumvent it, such as getting black market enterprise certificates.

    The RCS Labs iOS malware was researched by Project Zero member Ian Beer, who found several vulnerabilities. According to him, the malware exploits six vulnerabilities to get control of a victim’s device. Five of Apple’s iOS versions had known and publicized vulnerabilities, while the sixth was a previously unknown vulnerability. Apple resolved the issue in December. Apple’s most recent generation of “coprocessors” have experienced structural changes as the company and industry progress toward an all-in-one “system-on-a-chip” design. This exploit took advantage of these modifications.

    According to Google researchers, the RCS Labs malware reflects a more significant trend in which the surveillance-for-hire industry combines proven hacking tactics and weaknesses with more distinctive characteristics to gain an advantage over competitors.

    “The commercial surveillance industry uses and repurposes jailbreaking community research.” TAG member Benoit Sevens points out that three of the exploits in this scenario were obtained from publicly available jailbreak exploits. “Other monitoring services likewise replicate strategies and infection vectors that have already been devised and exploited by cyber criminal groups. Surveillance providers, like other attackers, use social engineering techniques to lure their victims in.”

    Although NSO Group is a well-known organization, research shows that many small and mid-sized businesses in a fast-developing industry significantly risk internet users worldwide.

    Final Words:

    Two new malware discoveries reveal that there are still unknown iOS and Android malware dangers. Although these hazards have been found and warned about, many more probably exist. Always use caution while downloading and installing software on your mobile devices, and only use programs that come from reputable sources.

    To say that individuals are using spyware to track the whereabouts and activities of others is a serious matter. To defend themselves against this attack, Google and Lookout researchers encourage all users to upgrade to the newest operating system version. Be on the watch for any suspicious activities that might suggest that spyware is installed on your iPhone or Android device.

    This revelation is a sharp reminder of the importance of being careful in protecting your mobile devices.

    As originally reported in Wired: