Multiple WhatsApp mods spotted containing the CanesSpy Spyware

Pierluigi Paganini November 03, 2023

Kaspersky researchers are warning of multiple WhatsApp mods that embed a spyware module dubbed CanesSpy.

Kaspersky researchers discovered multiple WhatsApp mods that embed a spyware module dubbed CanesSpy.

mods are modifications or alterations made to an application, often by third-party developers or users. These modifications can serve various purposes, such as adding new features, customizing the app’s behavior, or enhancing its performance.

The bad news is that, in some cases, threat actors spread malware-laced mods to infect as many devices as possible.

Kaspersky recently discovered a Telegram mod mod that was discovered containing a spy module, and was distributed through Google Play. Now the security firm has discovered that previously harmless WhatsApp mods contain a spy module that we detect as the Trojan CanesSpy.

The researchers noticed that the manifest of the trojanized client contains suspicious components, a service and a broadcast receiver, which are not present in the legitimate WhatsApp client. The broadcast receiver listens for broadcasts from the system and other applications, such as phone starts charging, text message received, or downloader finishes downloading. The broadcast receiver gets a message like that, it calls the event handler. The experts noticed that the receiver in the WhatsApp spy mod runs a service that launches the spy module every time the phone is switched on or starts charging.

These modified versions of the instant messaging app have been observed propagated via sketchy websites advertising such software as well as Telegram channels used primarily by Arabic and Azerbaijani speakers, one of which boasts 2 million users.

Then the malware contacts the command-and-control (C2) server and sends information about the compromised device (i.e. IMEI, phone number, mobile country code, and mobile network code) via a POST request. The CanesSpy malware also gathers configuration details, such as paths for uploading various types of data and intervals between requests to the C&C, and transmits information about the victim’s contacts and accounts every five minutes.

“After the device information is successfully uploaded, the malware starts asking the C&C for instructions, which the developers call “orders”, at preconfigured intervals (one minute by default).” reads the report published by Kaspersky..

The researchers noticed that the messages sent to the C2 were all in Arabic, which suggests that the authors have an Arabic origin.

The malicious mods were distributed via Telegram channels, mostly in Arabic and Azeri languages. The experts pointed out that the most popular of these channels had almost two million subscribers.

CanesSpy Whatsapp

All the latest version of the mod available from each of the channels discovered contains the spy module.

The top five countries with the highest number of infections were Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey, and Egypt.

“We regret to say that we have seen an increase in the number of instant messaging app mods that contain malware code. WhatsApp mods are mostly distributed through third-party Android app stores, which often lack screening and fail to take down malware. Some of these resources, such as third-party app stores and Telegram channels, enjoy considerable popularity, but that is no guarantee of safety.” concludes the report. “To avoid losing your personal data, we recommend using official instant messaging clients only. “

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, WhatsApp)

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