A famous quote, “Half knowledge is always dangerous”, but “Too much knowledge of anything can lead to destruction”. Recently very infamous spyware and malware named WyrmSpy and Dragon Egg were invented by a Chinese group of hackers APT41. The APT41 is a state-endorsed Clandstein active group based in the People’s Republic of China that has been active since 2012. In contrast to numerous countries-government supported, APT has a footprint record jeopardising both government organisations for clandestine activities as well as different private organisations or enterprises for their financial gain. APT41 group aims at Android devices through spyware wyrmspy and dragon egg, which masquerades as a legitimate application. According to the U.S. jury legal accusation from 2019 to 2020, the group was entangled in threatening over more than 100 public and private individuals and organisations in the United States and around the world.
Moreover, a detailed analysis report was shared by the Lookout Threat Researchers, that has been actively monitoring and tracking both spyware and malware.
Briefing about how spyware attacks on Android devices take place
To begin with, this malware imitates a real source Android application to show some sort of notification. Once it is successfully installed on the user’s machine, proclaims multiple device’s permission to enable data filtration.
Wyrmspy complies with log files, photos, device locations, SMS(read and write), and audio recordings. It has also authenticated that there are no detection malware activities found on google play even after running multiple security levels. These malicious things are made with the intent to obtain rooting access privileges to the device and monitor activities to the specified commands received from the C2 servers.
Similarly, Dragon Egg can collect data files, contacts, locations, and audio recordings, and it also accesses camera photos once it successfully trade-off the device. Dragon egg receives a payload that is also known as “smallmload.jar”, which is either from APK(Android Packet Kit).
WyrmSpy initially masquerades as a default operation system application, and Dragon Egg simulates a third-party keyboard/ messaging application.
Overview of APT41 Chinese group background
APT41 is a Chinese-based stealth activity-carrying group that is said to be active since mid-2006. Rumours about APT41 that it was also a part of the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department’s (GSD) 3rd Department. Owning to that fact, 2006 has seen 140+ organisations’ security getting compromised, ranging from 20 strategically crucial companies.APT is also recognised for rationally plundering hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organisations between 2006 and 2013. It typically begins with spear-phishing emails to the targeted victims. These sent emails contain official templates along with language pretending to be from a legitimate real source, carrying a malicious attachment. As the victim opens the attached file, the backdoor bestows the control of the targeted machine to the APT groups machine. Once there is an unauthorised gain of access, the attacker visits and revisits the victim’s machine. The group remains dormant for lengthy durations, more likely for months or even for years.
Advisory points need to adhere to while using Android devices
- The security patch update is necessary at least once a week
- Clearing up unwanted junk files.
- Cache files of every frequently used application need to clear out.
- Install only required applications from
Google play store.
- Download only necessary APK files only it comes from trusted resources.
- Before giving device permission, it is advisable to run your files or URLs on VirusTotal.com this website will give a good closure to the malicious intent.
- Install good antivirus software.
- Individuals need to check the source of the email before opening an attachment to it.
- Never collect or add any randomly found device to your system
- Moreover, the user needs to keep track of their device activity. Rather than using devices just for entertainment purposes, it is more important to look for data protection on that device.
Network Crack Program Hacker Group (NCPH), which grew as an APT41 group with malicious intent, earlier performed the role of grey hat hacker, this group somehow grew up greedy to enhance more money laundering by hacking networks, devices, etc. As this group conducts a supply chain of attacks to gain unauthorised access to the network throughout the world, targeting hundreds of companies, including an extensive selection of industries such as social media, telecommunications, government, defence, education, and manufacturing. Last but not least, many more fraud-making groups with malicious intent will be forming and implementing in the future. It is on individuals and organisations to secure themselves but practise basic security levels to safeguard themselves against such threats and attacks.
Author: Sakshi Ankush Dhanawade Intern, Policy and Advocacy