Dangerous Android threat points to Italian spyware maker

A piece of Android spyware recently analyzed by researchers with the RedNaga Security team seemed to be yet another Hacking Team spying tool but, according to more recent revelations, another Italian company is its likely source.

Researcher Tim Strazzere, with help of his colleagues, analyzed the sample received practically directly from the target (who wished to remain anonymous), and discovered that the spyware:

  • Asks for practically every permission
  • Can hide itself from the launcher, ensure persistence, mute all audio on the device, turn the GPS on and off, take screenshots or record what can be seen on the screen, record video and audio, reply to or forward messages, lay low while the user is using the device, executed code, exfiltrate data, and so on.
  • Likely masquerades as an update for a Google service, as the target is shown phrases such as “Servizi Google” (Google Service) and “Aggiornamento effettuato con successo” (Successful Update).

What made him think that this might be the work of Hacking Team is the fact that the spyware contacts two IP address located in an address space used by previously known HackingTeam families.

The use of Italian in encrypted strings and SSL certificates is another circumstantial piece of evidence that seemed to point in that direction.

But two former Hacking Team employees and Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak believe that particular company was not involved in the creation of this malware.

The former analyzed the code and found it nothing like spyware samples developed by Hacking Team. The latter told Motherboard that the spyware’s infrastructure isn’t linked to Hacking Team’s – and he should know, as he’s been tracking it for a while.

But a mention in the SSL certificate used by one of the servers contains a string that might point to the right source: “Raxir”.

OPIS

Raxir is the name of an Italian company, started in 2013 and housed at tech incubator “Citta’ Della Scienza” in Naples, Italy.

According to this description, the company develops software for investigations and intelligence gathering, its software can only be used by government and law enforcement agencies.

Currently, it is only being used by those entities in Italy, as well as by the Second University of Naples (“Seconda Università degli Studi di Napoli”), but the “company has ties with Germany, and would like to reach foreign markets, and especially emerging economies/countries.”

According to Marczak’s findings – a server whose digital certificate contains the string “ProcuraNapoliRaxirSrv” – it seems that Raxir’s products are being used by the Naples’ office of the prosecutor.

Both Hacking Team and Raxir did not answer Motherboard’s request for comment on the matter.

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Dangerous Android threat points to Italian spyware maker