Tag: cybercrime

New Android malware targetting with fake COVID-19 information

29. October 2021

Last month, TechRepublic reported a new and devious SMS malware called TangleBot that attempts to take control of mobile devices by sending notifications about COVID-19. Currently, it targets Android users in the USA and Canada and can lead to a variety of harmful activities, according to security firm Cloudmark.

TangleBot tries to deceive users into downloading the malware through fake messages about COVID-19, such as “New regulations about COVID-19 in your region. Read here…” or “You have received the appointment for the 3rd dose. For more information, visit…”.

The link contains a notice that the Adobe Flash Player on the affected device needs to be updated but leads to the installation of the malicious software instead. As a result, TangleBot gets permission to access and control a wide range of functions and content. It is assumed that for this reason, the malware was named TangleBot.

TangleBot has the ability to make and block phone calls as well as send, obtain and process text messages. It is used to message other devices in order to spread faster among others. The malware is also designed to spy on users through accessing the camera, screen or microphone and setting up additional methods to observe activity on the device. Of particular concern is the possibility to place overlay screens on the device covering legitimate apps, such as banking or financial apps, in an attempt to steal account credentials. Furthermore, the personal data stolen by the attacker usually moves to the dark web for sale, which poses a risk even if the victim manages to remove the malware.

Hank Schless, senior manager for security solutions at security firm Lookout, pointed out the dangers of cybercriminals exploiting the pandemic:

Social engineering that uses the pandemic as a lure continues to be a major issue globally. It’s advantageous for attackers to leverage socially uncertain situations in order to make their phishing campaigns more effective. People are more likely to let their guard down and interact with something online that promises information they need.

According to Schless, the risks exist not only for private individuals, but also for companies:

Mobile devices offer countless channels for attackers to deliver socially engineered phishing campaigns with the goal of swiping corporate login credentials or installing advanced malware that can exfiltrate sensitive data from the device. For organizations that allow employees to use personal devices for work in a BYOD model, the risk is even higher considering the number of personal apps people use. Attackers can deliver campaigns through SMS, social media, third-party messaging apps, gaming and even dating apps.

Additionally, Cloudmark advised that users should be vigilant in this regard and provided several tips to protect against SMS malware:

  • Look out for suspicious text messages,
  • Guard your mobile number,
  • Access any linked website directly,
  • Report SMS phishing and spam messages,
  • Be cautious when installing apps to your device,
  • Avoid responding to unsolicited texts,
  • Install apps only from legitimate app stores.

To keep ahead of the latest cybersecurity threats, companies should also take some precautions. These include especially the implementation of security across mobile devices, protection of cloud services and raising awareness among own employees.

SMS flaw lets hackers take control of individuals’ phones for $16

24. March 2021

Hackers have discovered a new method of gaining access to individuals’ mobile devices via text message rerouting, Vice reports. Apparently, all it takes is $16 to retrieve a person’s messages from a third-party provider and then take over the phone number and, with it, various associated accounts.

All of that is possible due to a text messaging service called Sakari that allows businesses to send SMS reminders, alerts, confirmations and marketing campaigns. The company lets business users import their own phone number in order to be contacted by the businesses. However, the service has a significant security vulnerability. Its use is enabled by purchasing Sakari’s $16 per month plan and then filling out a document saying that the signer has authority to change phone numbers. Although the document points out that the user should not conduct any unlawful, harassing or inappropriate behavior, there is no subsequent call or text notification from Sakari asking the user to confirm the consent to the transfer. That’s why it is largely effortless to simply sign up with another person’s phone number and receive their text messages instead. From that moment on, it can be trivial to hack into other accounts associated with that phone number by sending login requests, as they rely on SMS codes.

This overlooked security flaw shows how frighteningly easy it is to gain access to the tools necessary to seize phone numbers. It requires less technical skill or knowledge than, for instance, SIM jacking. It demonstrates not only the insufficient regulation of commercial SMS tools but also gaping holes in the telecommunications infrastructure, since a hacker only needs to pretend having the user’s consent.

The attack method has implications for cybercrime and poses an enormous threat to safety and security. It enables criminals to harass people, drain their bank account, tear through their digital lives or intercept sensitive information or personal secrets. At this time, it is not clear to what extent this attack method is being applied to mobile numbers.

CTIA, a trade association representing the wireless industry, stated that they immediately launched an investigation into the matter and took precautionary measures. Adam Horsman, co-founder of Sakari, responded to the insufficient authentication of their customers by saying that Sakari added a security feature where a number will receive an automated call in order to confirm the consent given. Moreover, Sakari will verify all existing text-enabled numbers. But Sakari is just one company. And there are plenty of others in this industry. As this method raises serious concerns, it is important for mobile carriers to do more to protect their customers’ privacy and security, such as notifications when registering a new device or a two-factor-authentication.

Dutch data scandal: illegal trade of COVID-19 patient data

19. February 2021

In recent months, a RTL Nieuws reporter Daniël Verlaan has discovered widespread trade in the personal data of Dutch COVID-19 test subjects. He found ads consisting of photos of computer screens listing data of Dutch citizens. Apparently, the data had been offered for sale on various instant messaging apps such as Telegram, Snapchat and Wickr. The prices ranged from €30 to €50 per person. The data included home addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and BSN identifiers (Dutch social security number).

The personal data were registered in the two main IT systems of the Dutch Municipal Health Service (GGD) – CoronIT, containing details about citizens who took a COVID-19 test, and HPzone Light, a contact-tracing system, which contains the personal data of people infected with the coronavirus.

After becoming aware of the illegal trade, the GGD reported it to the Dutch Data Protection Authority and the police. The cybercrime team of the Midden-Nederland police immediately started an investigation. It showed that at least two GGD employees had maliciously stolen the data, as they had access to the official Dutch government COVID-19 systems and databases. Within 24 hours of the complaint, two men were arrested. Several days later, a third suspect was tracked down as well. The investigation continues, since the extent of the data theft is unclear and whether the suspects in fact managed to sell the data. Therefore, more arrests are certainly not excluded.

Chair of the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure, Victor Gevers, told ZDNet in an interview:

Because people are working from home, they can easily take photos of their screens. This is one of the issues when your administrative staff is working from home.

Many people expressed their disapproval of the insufficient security measures concerning the COVID-19 systems. Since the databases include very sensitive data, the government has a duty to protect these properly in order to prevent criminal misuse. People must be able to rely on their personal data being treated confidentially.

In a press release, the Dutch police also raised awareness of the cybercrime risks, like scam or identity fraud. Moreover, they informed about the possibilities of protection against such crimes and the need to report them. This prevents victims and allows the police to immediately track down suspects and stop their criminal practices.