“Legal malware” produced by the Italian firm Hacking Team can take total control of your mobile phone.
This Italian company might have proposed its services for many companies all over the world. According to experts such programs are illegal.
Operating since 2001, the Milan-based Hacking Team employs over 50 people and offers clients the ability to “take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility," while “keeping an eye on all your targets and manage them remotely, all from a single screen.” It’s the first time Remote Control Systems (RCS) malware has been positively linked with mobile phones and it opens up a new privacy threat potential to mobile phone users.
“Our latest research has identified mobile modules that work on all well-known mobile platforms, including as Android and iOS. These modules are installed using infectors – special executables for either Windows or Macs that run on already infected computers. They translate into complete control over the environment in and near a victim’s computer. 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,” wrote Sergey Golovanov, Kaspersky researcher.
Police can install the spy malware directly into the phone if there is direct access to the device, or if the owner of the phone connects to an already infected computer, according to Wired. Various softwares can also lure users to download targeted fake apps.
Once “legal malware” inside an iPhone, for instance, it can access and activate all of the following: control of Wi-Fi, GPS, GPRS, recording voice, e-mail, SMS, MMS, listing files, cookies, visited URLs, cached web pages, address book, call history, notes, calendar, clipboard, list of apps, SIM change, live microphone, camera shots, support chats, WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber.
According to experts while the malware can be spotted by some of the more sophisticated anti-virus software, it takes special measures to avoid detection – such as “scouting” a victim before installation, “obfuscating” its presence, and removing traces of its activity.
Hacking Team has maintained that its products are used for lawful governmental interceptions, adding that it does not sell items to countries blacklisted by NATO or repressive regimes. However there have been cases where the spying apps were used in illegal ways in Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
Hacking Team controls the spying malware remotely via command-and-control servers. Kaspersky has discovered more than 350 such servers in more than 40 countries. A total of 64 servers were found in the US – more than in any other country. Kazakhstan came in second, with a total of 49 servers found. Thirty-five were found in Ecuador and 32 in the UK.