In an aggressive campaign detected in June and July 2023, various European bank customers have become targets of the Android banking trojan, SpyNote. Italian cybersecurity firm Cleafy reported that the spyware is being distributed through email phishing or smishing campaigns, using a combination of remote access trojan (RAT) capabilities and vishing attacks to execute fraudulent activities.
SpyNote, also known as SpyMax, operates like other Android banking Trojans, requiring accessibility permissions to gather sensitive data from infected devices and performing dual functions as both spyware and a tool for bank fraud.
The attack chain of SpyNote begins with deceptive SMS messages prompting users to install a banking app, redirecting them to the legitimate TeamViewer QuickSupport app on the Google Play Store.
Cybercriminals impersonate bank operators and conduct fraudulent transactions directly on the victim’s device after gaining remote access via TeamViewer. The trojan then harvests various types of information, including geolocation data, keystrokes, screen recordings, and SMS messages, enabling it to bypass SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA) measures.
Additionally, during the same period, a hack-for-hire operation called Bahamut was linked to a new campaign in the Middle East and South Asia regions, deploying a dummy chat app called SafeChat that conceals an Android malware known as CoverIm.
Delivered via WhatsApp, CoverIm shares similar features with SpyNote, requesting accessibility permissions and collecting call logs, contacts, files, location data, SMS messages, as well as installing additional apps and stealing data from various messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, imo, Signal, Telegram, Viber, and WhatsApp. Bahamut’s tactics overlap with those of another nation-state actor, the DoNot Team, who utilized rogue Android apps published on the Play Store to infect individuals in Pakistan.
The exact details of Bahamut’s social engineering aspect in the attack are unclear, but the threat actor is known to rely on fictitious personas on Facebook and Instagram, posing as tech recruiters, journalists, students, and activists to trick users into downloading malware on their devices.
The operation utilizes various tactics to host and distribute malware, including running a network of malicious domains that appear to offer secure chat, file-sharing, connectivity services, or news applications, some of which spoof domains of regional media outlets and legitimate app stores to make the links appear more convincing.