A mobile spyware used to track activists in Honk Kong

Pierluigi Paganini September 30, 2014

A Fake Occupy Central app containing a spyware is used by unknown to track activists in Hong Kong. Evidences suggest the involvement of Chinese entities.

A Fake Occupy Central app is targeting the smartphones of the activists belonging to the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement with spyware. The malicious app  has circulated online claiming to be an instrument to coordinate the members of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement. In time I’m writing it is not clear the number of mobile users infected by the app.

The spyware is disguised as an Android App, dubbed Code4HK, designed by a group of coders trying to improve government transparency in Hong Kong.

Code4HK spyware malware

The threat actor behind the malicious app sent a link the application in classic phishing messages to the targeted members of the movement, the messages are sent from an unknown phone number unknown with the following text.

“Check out this Android app designed by Code4HK for the coordination of Occupy Central!” the message read.

Lau Sau-yin, a spokeswoman for Occupy Central, officially warned people to avoid the install the application because it hides a spyware. Code4HK also revealed that its development team was not involved in the development neither the distribution of the application.

“None of the Code4HK community has done any application on [Occupy Central] at the moment nor sent the message,” the statement read. 

Regarding the nature of the Android Applicatio, Code4HK suggested the application was generic spyware.

“I agree it looks quite off the shelf, not specialised for us,” said Vincent Lau Chun-yin, a member of the group.

The malicious app, like many other spyware, once downloaded access to the user’s information stored in the devices, including contacts, phone call history, location, browsing history and SMS.

Siu Cheong Leung, a senior consultant with the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre, confirmed that the application is able to record audio from the surrounding environment making it ideal for surveillance activities.

“On the face it is not suspicious,” he added. “However once it is installed, it will unpack data from itself to install a second mobile app,” which then connects to a server based in South Korea. 

The server ,which was used by bad actors to host the C&C, has a log-in in simplified Chinese,  a language mainly used in China.

The attribution is still a mystery, it is difficult to imagine who has deployed the malware, for sure someone who is very interested in the situation in Hong Kong.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Hong Kong, spyware)

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