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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Sophisticated spyware AridSpy targets Middle East in new malware campaign

ESET reveals new malware campaigns involving AridSpy, orchestrated by Arid Viper to target Android users in the Middle East, employing sophisticated espionage tactics.

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ESET Research has recently revealed the existence of a sophisticated piece of malware, known as AridSpy, which is being distributed through five disguised websites. This malware is linked to the well-known cyberespionage group Arid Viper, also referred to as APT-C-23, Desert Falcons, or Two-tailed Scorpion, which has a history of targeting the Middle East.

Unveiling AridSpy

AridSpy has been detected in both Palestine and Egypt and is attributed, with medium confidence, to the Arid Viper APT group. This malware takes the form of a Trojan that is controlled remotely, with capabilities that focus on the espionage of user data. It can spy on messaging apps and extract content from the device, among other functionalities. It is typically bundled into applications that offer genuine services, making it even more deceptive.

How AridSpy infiltrates and operates

The campaigns involving AridSpy began in 2022 and include the distribution of multistage Android spyware, which ESET has named AridSpy. The malware downloads first- and second-stage payloads from its Command & Control (C&C) server, helping it to avoid detection. These payloads are spread through dedicated websites that impersonate various messaging apps, a job opportunity app, and a Palestinian Civil Registry app. Often, these are existing applications that have been compromised by the addition of AridSpy's malicious code.

“In order to gain initial access to the device, the threat actors try to convince their potential victim to install a fake, but functional, app. Once the target clicks the site's download button, myScript.js, hosted on the same server, is executed to generate the correct download path for the malicious file,” explains ESET researcher Lukáš Štefanko, who discovered AridSpy.

The extent of AridSpy's espionage capabilities

AridSpy is not just sophisticated in its disguise but also in its functionality. It is designed to avoid detection by network monitoring tools and can deactivate itself based on its coded instructions. The data exfiltration process is either triggered by a command received from the Firebase C&C server or when a predefined event occurs. Such events might include changes in connectivity, the installation or uninstallation of an app, phone calls made or received, SMS messages sent or received, connecting or disconnecting a battery charger, or the device rebooting.

If any of these events occur, AridSpy begins to gather a wide range of victim data and uploads it to the exfiltration C&C server. This includes the device location, contact lists, call logs, text messages, thumbnails of photos and videos, recorded phone calls and surrounding audio, photos taken by the malware, WhatsApp databases containing exchanged messages and user contacts, bookmarks and search history from the default browser and Chrome, Samsung Browser, and Firefox if installed, files from external storage, and all received notifications, among others.

This ongoing investigation into AridSpy by ESET underscores the persistent threats posed by cybercriminal groups and the critical importance of cautious software installation practices, especially from non-official sources.

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Nurin Sofia
Nurin Sofia
Nurin Sofia is a news editor at Tech Edition. Her interest is in technology and startups, occasionally crunching news for gaming. Sofia enjoys playing video games, going on bike rides, and gardening when she isn't behind a keyboard.

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