Published on June 25th, 2014 📆 | 4622 Views ⚑
Researchers Find and Decode the Spy Tools Governments Use to Hijack SmartPhones
Researchers from the Citizen Lab
at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and computer security firm Kaspersky Lab
have unearthed a broad network of controversial spyware which is specially designed to give law enforcement agencies complete access to a suspect's phone for the purpose of surveillance.
MALWARE FOR DESKTOPS AND ALL MOBILE DEVICES
The malware, dubbed as Remote Control System (RCS), also known as Da Vinci and Galileo, is developed by an Italian company known as Hacking Team, available for desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices. The latest version of the malware works for all phone including Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian and BlackBerry devices, but best on Android devices, and can also be installed on jailbroken iOS devices. But even if the targeted iOS device is not jailbroken, the malware uses the famous Evasi0n jailbreaking tool to install the malware easily.
The team of researchers from both Citizen Lab and Kaspersky Lab in collaboration has presented their findings during an event in London. According to the report published, the diameter of the command infrastructure supporting Hacking Team, which sells the RCS to governments and law enforcement, is very vast with 326 command-and-control (C&C) servers running in more than 40 countries.
Hacking Team is a Milan-based IT company with more than 50 employees that has made a totally different place for itself selling "offensive" intrusion and surveillance software to governments and law enforcement agencies in "several dozen countries" on "six continents."
“It was a well-known fact for quite some time that the HackingTeam products included malware for mobile phones. However, these were rarely seen,” said Kaspersky Lab experts on the blog post. “In particular, the Android and iOS Trojans have never been identified before and represented one of the remaining blank spots in the story.”
WORLD WIDE WEB OF COMMAND-N-CONTROL SERVERS
Kaspersky Lab researchers have used a fingerprinting method to scan the entire IPv4 space and to identify the IP addresses of RCS Command & Control servers around the world and found the biggest host in United States with 64 counts of C&C servers. Next on the list was Kazakhstan with 49, Ecuador has 35, UK which hosts 32 control systems and many other countries with a grand total of 326 Command & Control servers.
"The presence of these servers in a given country doesn't mean to say they are used by that particular country's law enforcement agencies," said Sergey Golovanov, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. "However, it makes sense for the users of RCS to deploy C&Cs in locations they control – where there are minimal risks of cross-border legal issues or server seizures."
RCS can be physically implanted on the victim’s device through a USB or SD card, and remotely it can be installed through spear phishing, exploit kits, drive-by downloads or network traffic injection.
Once installed on Apple iOS and Android device, the new module enable governments and law enforcement officers with larger capabilities to monitor victim devices, including the ability to:
- control phone network
- steal data from their device
- record voice E-mail
- intercept SMS and MMS messages
- obtain call history
- report on their location
- use the device’s microphone in real time
- intercept voice and SMS messages sent via applications such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, and much more.
"Secretly activating the microphone and taking regular camera shots provides constant surveillance of the target—which is much more powerful than traditional cloak and dagger operations," Golovanov wrote.
While, the Android module is protected by an optimizer for Android called DexGuard that made the it extremely difficult to analyze. However, most of the iOS capabilities mentioned above are also available for Android, along with the support for hijacking applications such Facebook, Google Talk, Tencent of China and many more.
The mobile modules for each are custom-built for each target, researchers said. From previous disclosures we have seen that RCS is currently being used to spy on political dissidents, journalists, human rights advocates, and opposing political figures.