Smartphone spyware can steal WhatsApp messages from Android phones

Skygofree Android spyware active since 2014, say researchers

Security firm Kaspersky has uncovered a new Android spyware tool that's being described as one of the most powerful and advanced forms of mobile malware ever.

"Skygofree is a sophisticated, multi-stage spyware that gives attackers full remote control of an infected device", the company alerted in a press release.

The malware, called Skygofree, has been in existence since 2014 and is now limited only to Italy.

It also has built-in process protection to stop Android's idle process killing feature (in Android 8.0 and above) from killing its various functions: Skygofree processes will tell Android that they're updating, so they can't be disabled. Additionally, it can read victims' private WhatsApp messages through Accessibility Services-a tool for visually and audibly impaired users.

Even as WhatsApp has tried to play down the chance of group chats being vulnerable to hacking, another report based on research has emerged, which speaks of an Android spyware that records the activities of WhatsApp users.

Kaspersky Lab explained that the malware has nothing to do with Sky or the Sky Go product, service or app.

If that wasn't enough, the malware is capable of snapping pictures and capturing video footage in addition to stealing text messages, calendar events and business-related information that is stored on-device.

Security researchers have discovered a new malware app that mimics webpages created to look like those of telecom operators and tricks users into installing the APK, thereby compromising device privacy.

"Given the artefacts we discovered in the malware code and our analysis of the infrastructure, we have a high level of confidence that the developer behind the Skygofree implants is an Italian IT company that offers surveillance solutions, rather like HackingTeam". This allows developers to make an app aware of a user's current location and their proximity to a specified point of interest in order to trigger some functionality in an app, which in the malware's case was to trigger audio record.

According to Kaspersky, the spyware tool, dubbed "Skygofree", enables attackers to crack Android devices and exfiltrate WhatsApp messages.

Details found in the code of the spyware suggested it was developed by Negg International, an Italian cybersecurity company. This, the firm said, lets it collect and analyse a victim's web traffic, meaning someone somewhere will know exactly what sites they looked at and what logins, passwords, and card numbers they entered.

"It has a lot of different functions, including some unique ones that we have not seen anywhere else, for example, it can track the location of the device and switch on a sound recording when the owner is near certain coordinates".

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