Blackberry, the Canadian security company, has identified espionage attempts to steal data from the phones of the Pakistani government and army officials through fake smartphone applications.
The company says it does not know who is responsible for the campaign but says it likely involves the state-sponsored groups. The reports reveal one of the fake application promised news about Kashmir. Other fake applications mimicked pornography websites, a dating chat service, and a disaster relief organisation, the Ansar Foundation.
“The Pakistani military, other government agencies, and their officials were also the subject of a concurrent espionage campaign employing both mobile and desktop components BlackBerry researchers have dubbed OPERATION DUALPAK2 which utilizes newly identified Windows malware family BlackBerry researchers have dubbed PWNWIN2. BlackBerry researchers determined this effort to be the work of another state-sponsored APT group known as CONFUCIUS,” it said.
The applications utilized Google’s Android system and were distributed through email and or on social media messaging services such as Whatsapp.
“Nearly all the governments with a developed cyber capability have an interest in, and ability to spy on the Pakistani government and its influential military. Even APT groups with unattributed state backing have had a go at it,” stated the report.
Blackberry, a former mobile phone giant who has now shifted to the security business, says the hacking attempts are part of the global trend of hackers targeting mobile devices since people use them for work and in their personal lives.
“I don’t think we saw examples where they were targeting specific individuals,” said the company’s Brian Robison. “It was more of a broad stroke.”
Blackberry’s report also highlights ongoing smartphone malware campaigns in other parts of the world in which hacker appears to be acting in the interests of the Chinese, Iranian, Vietnamese, and North Korean governments. One common thread among the different campaigns, they use mobile malware into more conventional strategies targeting desktop computers.
Robison said many people have been falsely lulled into thinking their phones are more trustworthy. “We put a lot of trust in the public app stores to try to keep us safe,” he said.