ZooPark, a sophisticated cyberespionage campaign, has been targeting Android device users based in Middle Eastern countries for several years, researchers said.

Using legitimate websites as sources of infection, the campaign appears to be a nation-state backed operation aimed at political organizations, activists and other targets based in the region, said researchers at Kaspersky Lab. 

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Kaspersky Lab researchers received something that seemed to be a sample of unknown Android malware. At first glance, the malware appeared to be nothing serious: A very simple and straight-forward cyberespionage tool. Researchers decided to further investigate and soon discovered a far more recent and sophisticated version of the same app. They decided to call it ZooPark.

Some of the malicious ZooPark apps are being distributed from news and political websites popular in specific parts of the Middle East. They are disguised as legitimate apps with names like ‘TelegramGroups’ and ‘Alnaharegypt news,’ among others, recognized in and relevant to some Middle Eastern countries.

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Upon successful infection, the malware provides the attacker with the following abilities:

• Contacts 
• Account data 
• Call logs and audio recordings of the calls
• Pictures stored on the SD card of the device
• GPS location 
• SMS messages
• Installed application details, browser data
• Keylogs and clipboard data

Backdoor functionality:
• Silently sending SMS
• Silently making calls
• Execution of shell commands

An additional malicious function targets instant messaging applications like Telegram, WhatsApp, IMO, as well as the web browser (Chrome) and other applications. It allows the malware to steal the internal databases of the attacked apps. For the web browser, this would mean that stored credentials to other websites could be compromised as a result of the attack.

The investigation suggests the attackers are focusing on users based in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon and Iran. Based on the news topics that the attackers used to lure victims into installing the malware, members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are among the possible targets of the ZooPark malware.
“More and more people use their mobile devices as a primary – or sometimes even only – communication device. That is certainly being spotted by nation-state sponsored actors, who are building their toolsets so they will be efficient enough to track mobile users,” said Alexey Firsh, security expert at Kaspersky Lab. “The ZooPark APT, actively spying on targets in Middle Eastern countries, is one such example, but it is certainly not the only one.”

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