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According to Google, ISPs helped attackers infect targeted smartphones with Hermit spyware.




A week after it was revealed that sophisticated mobile spyware called hermits were used in the border by the Kazakh government, Google said it notified Android users of infected devices.

In addition, Android’s built-in malware protection service, Google Play Protect, has implemented the necessary changes to protect all users, Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) Benoit Sevens and Clement Lecigne said in a Thursday report. ..

Hermit, the work of an Italian vendor named RCS Lab, was documented by Lookout last week and has its modular feature set and the ability to collect sensitive information such as call logs, contacts, photos, exact locations, and SMS messages. Was called.

When the threat is completely hinted at by the device, in addition to abusing permissions to accessibility services to monitor the foreground app used by the victim, it also records audio, makes phone calls and redirects. It also has a function to do.

Its modularity makes it fully customizable and gives you the freedom to extend or modify the functionality of your spyware. It’s not immediately clear which of the campaign’s target audiences or RCS Lab’s clients were involved.

The Milan-based company, which has been operating since 1993, claims to “provide law enforcement agencies around the world with state-of-the-art technical solutions and technical support in the field of lawful intercept for over 20 years.” doing. Over 10,000 intercepted targets are expected to be processed daily in Europe alone.

“Hermits are yet another example of digital weapons used to target civilians and their mobile devices, and the data collected by the malicious parties involved is certainly valuable,” Zimperium said. Said Richard Merrick, director of threat reporting.

The target infects mobile phones with spy tools via drive-by download as an initial infection vector. This will send a unique link in the SMS message and click to activate the attack chain.

The actor may have worked with the target Internet service provider (ISP) to disable the mobile data connection and then send an SMS prompting the recipient to install an application that restores mobile data access.

“We believe this is why most applications impersonate mobile operator applications,” the researchers said. “If the ISP’s involvement is not possible, the application impersonates a messaging application.”

To put iOS users at risk, attackers are allegedly relying on provisioning profiles that allow fake carrier-branded apps to be sideloaded to the device without having to get them from the App Store.

Analysis of the iOS version of the app includes six exploits (CVE-2018-4344, CVE-2019-8605, CVE-2020-3837, CVE-2020-9907, CVE-2021-30883, and CVE-2021-30983 — WhatsApp. To steal desired files such as databases from the device.

In a detailed analysis of iOS artifacts impersonating My Vodafone carrier app, Google Project Zero’s Ian Beer said, “As the curve slowly shifts to memory corruption exploits and the cost increases, so does the attacker. “.

On Android, drive-by attacks require the victim to enable a setting to install a third-party application from an unknown source. This allows malicious apps disguised as smartphone brands such as Samsung to demand extensive authority to achieve malicious goals.

The Android variant not only tries to root the device for fixed access, but also includes the ability to fetch and run any remote component that can communicate with the main app instead of bundling an exploit in the APK file. They are wired differently in that they are.

“This campaign reminds us that attackers don’t always use exploits to get the required privileges,” the researchers say. “Basic infection vectors and drive-by downloads will continue to work and can be very efficient with the help of local ISPs.”

Seven of the nine zero-day exploits discovered in 2021 were developed by commercial providers and sold to and used by government-sponsored actors, the tech giant said in a variety of known deals. Exploits and monitoring capabilities mentioned that they are tracking more than 30 sophisticated level vendors.

In addition, Google TAG raises concerns that vendors like RCS Lab “secretly stockpile zero-day vulnerabilities,” given that many spyware vendors have been compromised in the last decade. Warned that it poses a serious risk. The stockpile can be released publicly without warning. “

“Our findings highlight the extent to which commercial surveillance vendors have so far propagated features that have only been used by governments with technical expertise to develop and operate exploits.” TAG states.

“The use of surveillance techniques can be legal under national or international law, but governments are often used for purposes that are the exact opposite of democratic values. Opponents, journalists, It is aimed at human rights workers and opposition politicians. “




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