Blackberry, the Canadian security company previously famous for its mobile phones, released a report on Wednesday detailing attempts of espionage against Pakistani government and military officials. The report says the espionage was carried out via Android apps loaded with malware. The main purpose of the attack was to retrieve sensitive data which could be used to a strategic advantage by whoever ordered the malware attacks.
Blackberry hasn’t been able to pinpoint who exactly carried out the espionage campaign, but it says it is likely to involve state sponsored hacking groups based on the targets of the campaign. The apps included in the attack are quite varied. For example, one of the apps, called the ‘Ansar Foundation’, tries to copy a disaster relief organization. Similarly, there is a fake dating chat service, a Kashmir news service, and even a pornography app. As a Blackberry official Brian Robison puts it, “I don’t think we saw examples where they were targeting specific individuals. It was more of a broad stroke.” The apps weren’t made available on conventional app stores. Instead, the malicious software was distributed through other means, such as WhatsApp messages and emails.
The report also mentions that Pakistan is not the only country suffering from such malware campaigns. Rather, these kinds of espionage activity have become somewhat of a trend around the world, with hackers being used to further political and strategic for certain countries. This report serves to remind us that our smartphones may not be as secure as we are led to believe and that nefarious forces may be in play on something as simple as a WhatsApp message we forward without giving a second thought.