New Android-based Cyberespionage Actor Hunting Middle Eastern Political Targets through Infected Legitimate Websites
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered ZooPark – a sophisticated cyberespionage campaign, which for several years has been targeting users of Android devices based in Middle Eastern countries – mostly in Iran.
Using legitimate sites as sources of infection, the campaign appears to be a nation-state backed operation aimed at political organizations and other targets based in the region.
In a routine industry exchange of threat data, Kaspersky Lab researchers received something that appeared to be a sample of unknown Android-malware. At first glance, the malware appeared to be nothing serious: a technically very simple and straight-forward cyberespionage tool.
However, the name of the file was not typical: Referendum Kurdistan.apk. Researchers decided to investigate further and at some point they discovered a far more recent and sophisticated version of the same app.
Some of the malicious apps are being distributed from news and political websites popular in specific parts of the Middle East, disguised as legitimate apps with names like ‘TelegramGroups’ and ‘Alnaharegypt news’ among others, recognized and relevant to some Middle Eastern countries.
Upon successful infection, the malware provides the attacker with the following abilities:
• Account data
• Call logs and audio recordings of the calls
• Pictures stored on the SD card of device
• GPS location
• SMS messages
• Installed application details, browser data
• Keylogs and clipboard data
• Silently sending SMS
• Silently making calls
• Execution of shell commands
An additional malicious function targets instant messaging applications, like Telegram, WhatsApp IMO; the web browser (Chrome) and some other applications. It allows the malware to steal the internal data bases of the attacked apps.
For example, with the web browser this would mean that stored credentials to other websites could be compromised as a result of the attack.
Based on the results of investigation, the actors behind this are after private users based in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon and Iran. Further, based on information about news topics that attackers used to lure victims into installing the malware, Kurdish supporters and members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency located in Amman are among possible victims of the ZooPark malware.
“More and more people use their mobile devices as their primary or sometimes even only communication device. And that is certainly being spotted by nation-state sponsored actors, who are building their toolsets so they will be efficient enough to track mobile users.
The ZooPark APT, actively spying on targets in Middle Eastern countries, is one such example, but it is certainly not the only one,” - said Alexey Firsh, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.
In total, Kaspersky Lab researchers were able to identify at least four generations of the espionage malware related to the ZooPark family, which has been active since at least 2015.
It is not known for sure who is behind the ZooPark malware, however, based on public information, some parts of the command and control infrastructure related to ZooPark were registered by users that pointed Iran as their location.
Kaspersky Lab products successfully detect and block this threat.
Read more about the ZooPark advanced persistent threat at Securelist.com