Researchers discover how governments can take control of smartphones
Two new reports have discovered how “legal malware” from Hacking Team can be used to gain complete control of mobile devices. The Italian company is suspected of offering its services to dozens of governments.
Operating since 2001, the Milan-based company – which employs over 50 people – promises 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.”
Previous research showed that these claims were true for desktop computers, but according to data obtained separately by Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab and University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab (which also obtained a user manual), Hacking Team is just as adept at penetrating mobile phones with a tool known as Remote Control Systems (RCS).
“Our latest research has identified mobile modules that work on all well-known mobile platforms, including as Android and iOS,” wrote Kaspersky researcher Sergey Golovanov.
“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.”