Data security is one of the chief concerns in the highly connected world that we live in. Be it through our phone sim card or through the various apps that one installs, hackers have multiple ways to steal our data. And research towards identifying potential threats is always on. Recently, cyber security researchers have discovered a new and advanced spyware that’s capable of stealing WhatsApp messages from victims. Researchers state that the new malware can not just spy extensively on people, but can also force their phones to record audio and video and take pictures. It can also steal text messages and call records, all “without arousing suspicion. The level of sophistication of the malware has caused alarm among researchers.
Researchers have named the new malware Skygofree after one of the domains used by the malware. It was first spotted by antivirus firm Kapersky Lab in this fall. But, researchers say it has likely been in development since 2014. Kaspersky Lab has clarified that the malware, Skygofree, has nothing to do with Sky or the Sky Go product, service or app. As per a new report by the researchers at Kapersky Lab, Skygofree is likely to be the creation of an Italian IT company. Several affected devices have been found so far only in Italy, states the report. The malware has continuously been improved over the past three years and has hacking abilities which have never been seen before outside of controlled research settings.
One of the shocking things that the malware can do to an infected phone is to make it carry out location-based audio recordings. This means it can automatically begin recording the device’s surroundings when that device enters a specified place. Skygofree can also spy on messages with the help of the Accessibility Services and connect different infected devices to ‘Wi-Fi networks controlled by cybercriminals, explains the Kaspersky team. The team, however, couldn’t determine ‘in what environment these landing pages were used in the wild’. They add that they’ve identified several web landing pages that spread the implant by mimicking the pages of mobile operators.
Kaspersky Lab is confident that the developer behind the Skygofree implants is an Italian IT company that offers surveillance solutions. They advise users to be cautious when they receive emails from people and organisations that they don’t know. Especially when it has unexpected requests or attachments. They add that people must double-check the integrity and origin of websites before clicking on links and call the service provider if in doubt.