| Researchers October 5, 2017
October 5, 2017
FrozenCell has been seen masquerading as various well known social media and chat applications as well as an app likely only used by Palestinian or Jordanian students sitting their 2016 general exams.
Lookout researchers have discovered a new mobile surveillanceware family, FrozenCell. The threat is likely targeting employees of various Palestinian government agencies, security services, Palestinian students, and those affiliated with the Fatah political party.
FrozenCell is the mobile component of a multi-platform attack we've seen a threat actor known as "Two-tailed Scorpion/APT-C-23," use to spy on victims through compromised mobile devices and desktops. The desktop components of this attack, previously discovered by Palo Alto Network, are known as KasperAgent and Micropsia. We discovered 561MB of exfiltrated data from 24 compromised Android devices while investigating this threat. More data is appearing daily, leading us to believe the actors are still highly active. We are continuing to watch it closely.
This threat is another proof point that attackers are clearly incorporating the mobile device into their surveillance campaigns as a primary attack vector. Government agencies and enterprises should look at this threat as an example of the kind of spying that is now possible given how ubiquitous mobile devices are in the workplace. Attackers are keenly aware of the information they can derive from these devices and are using multi-stage (phishing + an executable), multi-platform (Android + desktop) attacks to accomplish their spying.
All Lookout customers are protected from this threat.
FrozenCell masquerades as fake updates to chat applications like Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, LINE, and LoveChat. We also detected it in apps targeted toward specific Middle Eastern demographics. For example, the actors behind FrozenCell used a spoofed app called Tawjihi 2016, which Jordanian or Palestinian students would ordinarily use during their general secondary examination.
Once installed on a device FrozenCell is capable of:
The graph below represents a split of the types of data from only one misconfigured command and control server (out of over 37 servers). This is only a small picture of the threat actor's operations.
Some noteworthy files identified in content taken from compromised devices include passport photos, audio recordings of calls, other images, and a PDF document with data on 484 individuals. The PDF lists dates of birth, gender, passport numbers, and names.
The actors behind FrozenCell used an online service that geolocates mobile devices based on nearby cell towers to track targets. This data shows a distinct concentration of infected devices beaconing from Gaza, Palestine.
Early samples of FrozenCell used an online service for storing geolocation information of infected devices. Analysis of this telemetry shows infected devices are completely based in Gaza, Palestine. It has not been confirmed whether these are from test devices or the devices of victims.
We were also able to link the FrozenCell's Android infrastructure to numerous desktop samples that are part of the larger multi-platform attack. It appears the attackers sent malicious executables though phishing campaigns impersonating individuals associated with the Palestinian Security Services, the General Directorate of Civil Defence - Ministry of the Interior, and the 7th Fateh Conference of the Palestinian National Liberation Front (held in late 2016). The titles and contents of these files suggest that the actor targeted individuals affiliated with these government agencies and the Fatah political party.
Some malicious files associated with these samples were titled the following:
Screenshots of some of the PDF contents:
Many of these executables are associated with various short links created using Bit.ly, a URL shortening service. After analyzing the traffic associated with these short links, we determined that each one was associated with a referral path from mail.mosa.pna.ps. MOSA is the Palestinian Directorate of Social Development whose mandate is to achieve comprehensive development, social security, and economic growth for Palestinian families, according to publicly available information on this ministry.
At the time of writing the following domains have either been used by this family or are currently active. We expect this list to grow given that this actor has changed its infrastructure numerous times in 2017.
While looking at this infrastructure, we identified that one of these domains has directory indexing enabled. This mistake in operational security allowed us to gain visibility into exfiltrated content for a number of devices. Continued mirroring suggests it is likely a regularly cleaned staging server. We sourced the over 561MB of exfiltrated data from this domain alone, all of which we found to be 7z compressed and password protected.
Password generation for compressed files takes place client-side with each device using a unique key in most scenarios. Key information consists of an MD5 hash of the device's Android ID, the device manufacturer, and the device model with each separated by an underscore. Visually, this can be represented as follows:
When combined with our analysis of indexed directories on C2 infrastructure, we were able to easily automate the generation of the password used by each device and, in turn, successfully decompress all exfiltrated content from compromised devices.
While exfiltrated content is encrypted, information used to generate the password is plainly visible in the top level directories for each device. Taking this information from directory listings, like the one shown above, allowed for the decryption of all content. In this case, FrozenCell has primarily netted the actors behind it with recorded outbound calls followed closely by images and recorded incoming calls.
FrozenCell is part of a very successful, multi-platform surveillance campaign. Attackers are growing smarter, targeting individuals through the devices and the services they use most. Government agencies and enterprises should plan to be hit from all angles - cloud services, mobile devices, laptops - in order to build comprehensive security strategies that work.
Want to learn more about how Lookout can protect you from app threats and other risks on mobile devices? Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest or contact us to learn about our threat intelligence services and mobile endpoint security.
|7312db721b57a1d43ac520f617eac1798b5c1b3d||com.myapps.update||Google Play Update|
All these indicators can be found on AlienVault under the FrozenCell pulse.
Michael Flossman Head of Threat Intelligence