Feeds

Cyber-cop Trojan used iTunes flaw to spy on crims

Gamekeeper turned poacher

Seven Steps to Software Security

A law enforcement Trojan takes advantage of the same recently patched iTunes flaw also used by Ghost Click botnet, according to a demo at a recent German trade show.

Spiegel Online reports that a promo video for a variant of the FinFisher spyware application shows it exploits a vulnerability in iTunes to update the software on targeted systems. Prior to a recent update, iTunes used an unencrypted HTTP request to poll for the latest version of Apple's media player software. This technique created an opening for man-in-the-middle attacks, providing Apple Software Updater is not in play*.

Instead of receiving the URL for the latest version of the iTunes from Apple, an attacker could send a dummy update request that induces victims to visit a counterfeit webpage under the control of attackers.

For the redirection to work, a machine would already need to be infected with the DNSChanger software (in the case of the alleged Ghost Click botnet operators) or in the case of law enforcement agencies using Gamma's FinFly ISP technology, you'd need ISPs to be in on the redirection ruse.

FinFisher is marketed by Gamma International to cops and spooks as a means to tap the Skype calls, IM chats and emails of suspected criminals. Documents found during the ransacking of Egypt's secret police headquarters, at the height of the Arab Spring uprising, suggest that the Mubarak regime purchased FinFisher to spy on dissidents. Gamma International, which denies selling its wares to Egypt, ran a stall at the Cyberwarfare Europe conference in Berlin back in September. Delegates to the conference included government and business representatives from the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Don't ever bother asking journos to leave, it never works

Gamma made sure journalists had left the room when it gave its product demonstration but Der Spiegel nonetheless discovered that its pitch included video showing how its FinFly ISP technology took advantage of the recently patched iTunes flaw to push updates of its remote monitoring tool. Other versions of its technology used a specially adapted USB flash drive ("USB FinFly") to drop spyware onto systems but this approach, unlike FinFly ISP, requires physical access to computers.

German software developer DigiTask offers similar law enforcement Trojan technology. German federal law allows the use of malware to eavesdrop on Skype conversations, however samples of the so-called R2D2 (AKA "0zapftis") Trojan that recently came into the possession of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) had a far wider range of functionality than this, including keystroke logging and establishing a backdoor on compromised machines.

CCC criticised the R2D2 code as both "amateurishly written" and illegal. Five German states subsequently admitted using the controversial backdoor Trojan to spy on criminal suspects. It's suspected that the R2D2 Trojan was developed by DigiTask, based on similarities in the sample obtained by CCC and the functionality as described in documents published by WikiLeaks last year, but this remains unconfirmed.

The use of law enforcement Trojans is particularly controversial in Germany, which is more privacy-sensitive than most countries thanks in large part to the memory of the invidious spying tactics by the former East German secret police, the Stasi. As Spiegel Online notes, adopting the same tactics as cyber-criminals makes those marketing law enforcement Trojans look even more sneaky. ®

Patchnote

* Apple addressed the underlying vulnerability with a cross-platform update for iTunes, version 10.5.1, last week. The latest version of iTunes requests update URLs over a secure (https) connection, thereby blocking man-in-the-middle attacks.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.