Home Security Skype, VLC used to spread surveillance software

Popular software packages like Skype and VLC media player (32-bit) for Windows are being used to spread surveillance software which has been christened StrongPity2 by researchers from Slovakian security firm ESET.

ESET's Filip Kafka wrote that the name was chosen because the software bore a strong resemblance to a package distributed by a malicious group known as StrongPity.

Back in September, ESET found a variant of the FinFisher sypware being spread in seven countries through legitimate applications like WhatsApp, Skype, Avast, WinRAR and VLC Player.

That campaign stopped a day after ESET reported about it, Kafka said. As in the earlier case, users trying to download a software installation package were being redirected to a fake website serving a trojanised version. The malware uses a man-in-the-middle attack to redirect users to the fake website.

FinFisher is surveillance software marketed by Lench IT Solutions, which sells it through law enforcement channels. It is "weaponised German surveillance malware used by intelligence agencies around the world to spy on journalists, political dissidents and others", according to WikiLeaks which revealed details of the spyware in 2014.

The new surveillance software, StrongPity2, had been visible in two unnamed countries since 8 October.

It was "using the same (and very uncommon) structure of HTTP redirects to achieve 'on-the-fly' browser redirection, only this time distributing StrongPity2 instead of FinFisher," Kafka said.

"We analysed the new spyware and immediately noticed several similarities to malware allegedly operated by the StrongPity group in the past."

Other common software packages which are being trojanised by StrongPity2 are CCleaner, Driver Booster, Opera, and WinRAR 5.50.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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