Cybercrime: New Malware AbstractEmu, attacking Android Devices and Hacking Group Targeting Telcos, ISPs

There is a new Android malware named ‘AbstractEmu’, attacking android devices, this is reported by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). If the malware gains access to smartphones, it takes complete control of infected smartphones and silently modifies device settings while simultaneously taking steps to evade detection. Similarly, the NCC also alerted of an advanced persistent threat (APT), an Iranian hacking group known as Lyceum (also known as Hexane, Siamesekitten, or Spirlin) targeting telecoms, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Africa with upgraded malware in a recent politically motivated attacks oriented in cyberespionage.

Cybercrime: New Malware AbstractEmu, attacking Android Devices and Hacking Group Targeting Telcos, ISPs

There is a new Android malware named ‘AbstractEmu’, attacking android devices, this is reported by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). If the malware gains access to smartphones, it takes complete control of infected smartphones and silently modifies device settings while simultaneously taking steps to evade detection.

 

This AbstractEmu is distributed via Google Play Store and third-party stores such as the Amazon Appstore and the Samsung Galaxy Store, as well as other lesser-known marketplaces like Aptoide and APKPure. So far, a total of 19 Android applications that posed as utility apps and system tools like password managers, money managers, app launchers, and data saving apps have been reported to contain the rooting functionality of the malware. The apps include All Passwords, Anti-ads Browser, Data Saver, Lite Launcher, My Phone, Night Light and Phone Plus, among others.

 

The rooting malware although rare, and very dangerous. It operates by using the rooting process to gain privileged access to the Android operating system, the threat actor can silently grant itself dangerous permissions or install additional malware – steps that would normally require user interaction. Elevated privileges also give the malware access to other apps' sensitive data, something not possible under normal circumstances.

 

Once installed in a device, it leverages one of five exploits for older Android security flaws that would allow it to gain root permissions. It also takes over the device, installs additional malware, extracts sensitive data, and transmits to a remote attack-controlled server. It can also modify the phone settings to give app ability to reset the device password, or lock the device, through device admin; draw over other windows; install other packages; access accessibility services; ignore battery optimisation; monitor notifications; capture screenshots; record device screen; disable Google Play Protect; as well as modify permissions that grant access to contacts, call logs, Short Messaging Service (SMS), Geographic Positioning System (GPS), camera, and microphone.

 

Although the app has been removed from the Google Play Store, the other app stores are likely distributing them. Consequently, to mitigate the risks. The NCC creates a two-fold advisory include:

  • Users should be wary of installing unknown or unusual apps, and look out for different behaviours as they use their phones.
  • Reset your phone to factory settings when there is suspicion of unusual behaviours in your phone.

This is the second malware reported by the NCC since October. The first was Flubot.

Similarly, the NCC also alerted of an advanced persistent threat (APT), an Iranian hacking group known as Lyceum (also known as Hexane, Siamesekitten, or Spirlin) targeting telecoms, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Africa with upgraded malware in a recent politically motivated attacks oriented in cyberespionage. The hacking group is known to be focused on infiltrating the networks of telecoms companies and ISPs. Between July and October, 2021, Lyceum was implicated in attacks against ISPs and telecoms organisations in Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. Lyceum has been linked to campaigns that hit Middle Eastern oil and gas companies in the past. The APT is also responsible for a campaign against an unnamed African government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The group appears to have expanded its focus to the technology sector.

 

There are various ways through which the lyceum group could attack its target. Lyceum's initial onslaught vectors include credential stuffing and brute-force attacks. Once a victim’s system is compromised, the attackers conduct surveillance on specific targets. Lyceum will attempt to deploy two different kinds of malware: Shark and Milan (known together as James). Both malwares are backdoors. Shark, a 32-bit executable written in C# and .NET, generates a configuration file for domain name system (DNS) tunneling or Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) C2 communications. Milan is a 32-bit Remote Access Trojan (RAT) that retrieves data. These two malwares are able to communicate with the group’s command-and-control (C2) servers. The APT maintains a C2 server network that connects to the group's backdoors, consisting of over 20 domains, including six that were previously not associated with the threat actors.

 

The malwares usually target individual accounts at companies of interest, once these accounts are breached, they are used as a springboard to launch spear-phishing attacks against high-profile executives in an organization. The suggests that not only do these attackers seek out data on subscribers and connected third-party companies, but once compromised, threat actors or their sponsors can also use these industries to surveil individuals of interest.

There are however ways to guard against this kind of threats. The NCC therefore re-echo ngCERT reports that multiple layers of security in addition to constant network monitoring is required by telecom companies and ISPs alike to stave off potential attacks.

Specifically, telecom consumers and the general public are advised to:

  • Ensure the consistent use of firewalls (software, hardware and cloud firewalls).
  • Enable a Web Application Firewall to help detect and prevent attacks coming from web applications by inspecting HTTP traffic.
  • Install Up-to-date antivirus programmes to help detect and prevent a wide range of malware, trojans, and viruses, which APT hackers will use to exploit your system.
  • Implement the use of Intrusion Prevention Systems that monitors your network.
  • Create a secure sandboxing environment that allows you to open and run untrusted programs or codes without risking harm to your operating system.
  • Ensure the use of virtual private network (VPN) to prevent an easy opportunity for APT hackers to gain initial access to your company’s network.
  • Enable spam and malware protection for your email applications, and educate your employees on how to identify potentially malicious emails.