Michael Flossman, Security Researcher

February 16, 2017

ViperRAT: The mobile APT targeting the Israeli Defense Force that should be on your radar

ViperRAT is an active, advanced persistent threat (APT) that sophisticated threat actors are actively using to target and spy on the Israeli Defense Force.

The threat actors behind the ViperRAT surveillanceware collect a significant amount of sensitive information off of the device, and seem most interested in exfiltrating images and audio content. The attackers are also hijacking the device camera to take pictures.

Using data collected from the Lookout global sensor network, the Lookout research team was able to gain unique visibility into the ViperRAT malware, including 11 new, unreported applications. We also discovered and analyzed live, misconfigured malicious command and control servers (C2), from which we were able to identify how the attacker gets new, infected apps to secretly install and the types of activities they are monitoring. In addition, we uncovered the IMEIs of the targeted individuals (IMEIs will not be shared publicly for the privacy and safety of the victims) as well as the types of exfiltrated content.

In aggregate, the type of information stolen could let an attacker know where a person is, with whom they are associated (including contacts’ profile photos), the messages they are sending, the websites they visit and search history, screenshots that reveal data from other apps on the device, the conversations they have in the presence of the device, and a myriad of images including anything at which device’s camera is pointed.

February 16, 2017

5 non-negotiable principles to combat cyber war on mobile

Cyber war is a term the U.S. government is intimately familiar with, but woefully unprepared for when it comes to mobile.

Government employee mobile devices are a relatively new attack surface, and a particularly valuable one for espionage missions and other criminal intent. Mobile devices access confidential, classified, and other protected data classes. At this point, that’s just a fact. Both CSIS and the Presidential Cyber Commision acknowledge that mobile is no longer a fringe technology, but a central instrument that allows employees to get their jobs done.

Protecting data on mobile is non-negotiable and the responsibility of federal technology and security leaders across the entire government.

There are five principles any federal agency or organization must use to build a mobile security strategy. To forego such a strategy directly puts sensitive government data at risk.

January 23, 2017

Lookout in Vanity Fair: The real story behind Pegasus and Trident

Smartphones today have more computing power than a Cray III supercomputer. However, many security professionals put about as much thought into securing their mobile ecosystems as they did into securing Motorola RAZRv3 flip phones back in the day.

Vanity Fair interviewed my team to understand the story behind the discovery of Trident, the three zero-day vulnerabilities used to remotely jailbreak iOS devices, and Pegasus, the spyware that used these vulnerabilities to exploit targeted individuals.

Read the article

January 19, 2017

Lookout is “FedRAMP Ready,” making it even easier for agencies to protect against mobile risks

Today, I am proud to announce that Lookout is now “FedRAMP Ready,” an indicator to federal agencies that Lookout Mobile Endpoint Security is vetted, secure, and can be quickly implemented into any U.S. government organization.

Lookout is the first mobile security solution to achieve this status.

December 5, 2016

Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity: Prioritize mobile security now

The Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity released its report on securing and growing the digital economy  in which one message is clear: de-prioritizing mobile security is no longer an option.

New priorities for a new mobile workplace

The days of employees working only at an office using an organization-issued desktop computer fully managed by the organization are largely over. Market forces and employee demands have made “bring your own device” the de facto option in many workplaces. … Organizations no longer have the control over people, locations, networks, and devices on which they once relied to secure their data. Mobile technologies are heavily used by almost every organization’s employees, yet security for mobile devices is often not considered as high a priority as security for other computing platforms. In short, the classic concept of the security perimeter is largely obsolete.” – Excerpt from the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity report

Employees in the public sector are using mobile devices every day to get their jobs done, whether government agencies know about it or not. Today, having a secured mobile workforce — which includes protection against risky applications, network attacks, and malicious intrusions — is a necessary element of an agency’s overall security architecture.

December 1, 2016

It starts now: 2017 mobile security predictions from Gartner

Gartner just published its “Predicts 2017: Endpoint and Mobile Security” report that includes findings and recommendations. I believe three of these to be significant for mobile security and for InfoSec and technology leaders heading into the new year. My take on these findings is below.

November 1, 2016

DirtyCow and Drammer vulnerabilities let attackers root or hijack Android devices

Two especially critical flaws that  allow an attacker to root or completely compromise a device have just been added to the litany of vulns on Android devices.

The vulnerabilities are known colloquially as DirtyCow (CVE-2016-5195) and Drammer (CVE-2016-6728). While they are unrelated, they both represent a real risk to Android users as individuals have already published proof-of-concept exploit code online for both vulnerabilities, thus minimizing the time attackers would need  to understand and develop their own exploits from scratch. Additionally, industry researchers have already seen attackers using DirtyCow  to exploit Linux-based systems in the wild.

October 24, 2016

It’s Mobile Malware Week: here are the tips you need

While October is typically associated with spooky Halloween costumes and binging on sweets, October also means celebrating European Cyber Security Month. While it doesn’t involve any ghosts and ghouls, security threats are sometimes scary too, so the European Cyber Security Month (ECSM) initiative promotes awareness of cyber security issues and best practices for how everyone can stay safe online.

The last week of October is Mobile Malware Week, so to help raise awareness of mobile malware and give everyone the information they need to avoid it, we’ve partnered with Europol and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to give you the tips you need to protect yourself from mobile malware.

While mobile malware creators will always find creative ways to try and get their malicious software on your mobile device, there are a few simple ways you can adjust your behaviour to lower your risk of falling victim to mobile malware:

1. Only download from official app stores. If that free version of your favourite app shows up in a third party app store and sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While the app could have the same functionality it promotes, it could be stealing your information, charging you money, or slowing down your phone in the background as you play. It is also a good idea to check out an app’s reviews to make sure that it is credible before downloading.

2. Don’t fall for phishing scams. Phishing is where an attacker tricks you into giving over your personal information or other data the attacker might want. For example, a criminal may send you an email that looks like it came from your bank asking you to verify your password. Trust your instincts. If the request seems weird or oddly timed, head to the company’s official website and contact them directly to confirm if the request came from them. Phishing scams generally give themselves away with bad grammar and spelling, but others can look very realistic.

3. Think before you click. On the small screen of a mobile device, it can be hard to know if a link you’ve received in an email is safe, but clicking on a malicious link could lead you to a phishing scam or to download malware to your device without you knowing. If you receive a link from someone you don’t know, it is best not to click on it. You can always go right to a company’s website to access the webpage. If you notice a website with a spelling error, close it immediately — www.go0gle.com is not the same as www.google.com.

4. Think before you download. Just like you shouldn’t click on a link in an email that comes from someone you don’t know, you also shouldn’t download any attachments from that email, since they could be malicious.

5. Stay up to date. Malware can be used to exploit vulnerabilities in your mobile device’s software. Those software updates you receive from your carrier or manufacturer often include “patches” for these vulnerabilities. Whenever your carrier or manufacturer pushes a software update to your phone, make sure you update as soon as possible.

6. Install a mobile security app. No matter how careful you are clicking on links and downloading apps, sometimes you can accidentally download something you didn’t want. That’s why it’s nice to have a mobile security app, such as Lookout, ensuring all the websites you visit and the apps you download are safe. There’s nothing like peace of mind when it comes to protecting your mobile device and everything on it.

For more detailed tips on staying safe while mobile banking, and protecting yourself from web-based threats and mobile ransomware, check out Europol’s bank of useful assets.

In the spirit of raising awareness during ECSM and helping keep people safe, share this post on Facebook with your family and friends. Not only will you be offering great advice, you could win one year of Lookout Premium! We’ll be picking five winners on October 31st.

October 24, 2016

It’s Mobile Malware Week: here’s what enterprises should know

October sees the return of European Cyber Security Month, which is the EU’s annual advocacy campaign that aims to raise awareness of cyber security threats, promote cyber security among citizens and provide up to date security information, through education and sharing of good practices.

This year 24th – 28th October is known as Mobile Malware Week and so Lookout have partnered with Europol and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to help raise awareness and educate around mobile malware plus provide tips for how to stay safe.

Mobile Malware in the Enterprise

When it comes to mobile, many of the threats facing enterprises are the same as those encountered by consumers. Often, devices are dual function, serving both work and personal interests and the device may or may not be owned by the enterprise. Problems can arise when corporate data finds its way onto devices that are outside the visibility or span of control of the IT team. As users spend more and more of their working day interacting with mobile devices it is essential that business take note, and expand their toolsets and policies to fit.

Mobile Malware – what is it?

Mobile malware is a malicious software specifically designed to attack mobile devices e.g. phones and tablets – set out to harm a device or the data on the device. Attacks can often steal user data, commit financial fraud, negatively impact device performance and more. These threats can be the same as those encountered from a computer, but some malware attacks apps and is specific to mobile. Mobile malware can work in tandem with a computer, or act independently.

Malware Types

Different organisations may have different ways they classify or consider Mobile Malware, but here’s a basic overview:

  • Malware: Apps that steal user data, commit financial fraud, and/or negatively impact device performance.
  • Chargeware: Apps that charge users for content or services without clear notification or the opportunity to provide informed consent.
  • Adware: Apps that serve ads that interfere with standard operating experiences and/or collect excessive personal data that exceeds standard advertising practices.

There are also more granular classifications that include: app droppers, backdoors, bots, click fraud apps, spam apps, spyware, surveillanceware, toll fraud apps, and trojans. You can read more about them here.

Real life examples

Mobile devices attract highly targeted and sophisticated attacks. These are not solely the domain of the PC or network and in fact may take advantage of some of the capabilities of a mobile device, such as GPS and additional sensors. An example was the recent ‘Pegasus’ spyware, one of the most advanced pieces of mobile spyware ever seen by Lookout. Pegasus had the ability to compromise a device with one click, remain silently embedded and then spy on every aspect of the user’s mobile interaction. Pegasus could intercept credentials, contact data, location data, intercept mic and video recordings and steal encrypted messages from a number of popular apps and services.

Interestingly Pegasus exploited several assumptions that are just as common to mobile devices as desktops – existence of unknown or unpatched vulnerabilities, willingness of users to click on unknown links, and over-reliance on existing security mechanisms (MDMs did not detect Pegasus).

A final consideration and a growing concern to enterprises is that even ‘good’ apps may introduce considerable risk. With many apps having the ability to connect to backend services, share data and regularly update themselves, enterprises increasingly need to know how this affects the organisation’s security posture. Having an awareness of apps in use and the ability to analyse the capabilities of those apps is an increasing requirement.

How to stay safe

While it’s true that more native safeguards exist, such as code-signing, app sandboxing and curated app stores, we also see attackers working around these safeguards and going for the weakest links.  This often involves coming up with new and novel approaches to distribute malware.

In order to see what’s happening so you can do something about it, the best approach if to gain visibility into to your mobile fleet – visibility is a necessary component of mobile security. While your employee might not know what they’re downloading, with the right tools, IT administrators can see, almost immediately, that a seemingly innocuous app is actually a threat to corporate data. A mobile security solution will help you do this.

A little awareness also goes a long way, and so it pays to keep you users informed. Check out our consumer blog with some useful tips for end users. Also make sure your IT policy covers mobile and is understandable for end users.

Lastly, have a plan and ensure users know who to contact and how to react in case of a suspected compromise.

For more information, see Europol’s mobile malware guides, plus NSCS (formerly CERT-UK) and Lookout’s Mobile Malware in the UK whitepaper.

October 10, 2016

Google Android security bulletin October 2016: remote code execution vulns continue

The October Android Security Bulletin contains 78 patches for Android devices — 23 more than last month, yet the third highest since Google started releasing the monthly patches. The release reveals more remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities, which could allow an attacker to take over a device requiring very little interaction from the victim.

Given the fragmentation of Android, and the slower patch cycles for these devices, mounting RCE issues could spell trouble for individuals waiting for patches and companies whose employees use Android devices.

This is likely one of the reasons why Google is starting to put more pressure on its partners to update Android devices more frequently.