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Kaspersky Reports Over 340 000 Attacks with New Malicious WhatsApp Mod

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Kaspersky researchers recently uncovered a new malicious WhatsApp spy mod, which is now proliferating within another popular messenger, Telegram. While the modification serves its intended purpose by extending user experience, it also clandestinely harvests personal information from its victims.

With an extensive reach surpassing 340,000 in just one month, this malware predominantly targets users who communicate in Arabic and Azeri, though victims have been identified globally. Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey, and Egypt witnessed the highest attack rates.

Users often turn to third-party mods for popular messaging apps to add extra features. However, some of these mods, while enhancing functionality, also come with hidden malware. Kaspersky has identified a new WhatsApp mod offering not only additions like scheduled messages and customisable options, but it also contains a malicious spyware module.

The modified WhatsApp client’s manifest file includes suspicious components (a service and a broadcast receiver) not present in the original version. The receiver initiates a service, launching the spy module when the phone is powered on or charging. Once activated, the malicious implant sends a request with device information to the attacker’s server.

This data covers IMEI, phone number, country and network codes, and more. It also transmits victim’s contacts and account details every five minutes; it is also able to set up microphone recordings and exfiltrate files from external storage.

The malicious version found its way through popular Telegram channels, predominantly targeting Arabic and Azeri speakers, with some of these channels boasting nearly two million subscribers. Kaspersky researchers alerted Telegram about the issue.

Kaspersky’s telemetry identified over 340,000 attacks involving this mod just in October. This threat emerged relatively recently, becoming active in mid-August 2023.

Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey, and Egypt are the top 5 countries with the highest attack rates. While the preference leans towards Arabic and Azerbaijani-speaking users, it also impacts users from around the world.

Kaspersky products detect the Trojan with the following verdict Trojan-Spy.AndroidOS.CanesSpy.

“People naturally trust apps from highly followed sources, but fraudsters exploit this trust. The spread of malicious mods through popular third-party platforms highlights the importance of using official IM clients.

“However, if you need some extra features not presented in the original client, you should consider employing a reputable security solution before installing third-party software, as it will protect your data from being compromised. For robust personal data protection, always download apps from official app stores or official websites,” comments Dmitry Kalinin, security expert at Kaspersky.

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