Lebanon's 'Dark Caracal' global cyber spy agency goes after smartphones

The attacks, which seized control of Android smartphones, allowed the hackers to turn them into victim-monitoring devices and to steal any data from them undetected, researchers said.

By REUTERS
January 18, 2018 18:01
1 minute read.
Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's Directorate of General Security (DGS), attends an urg

Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon's Directorate of General Security (DGS), attends an urgent security meeting with leaders of government security agencies.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

FRANKFURT - Lebanon's intelligence service may have turned the smartphones of thousands of targeted individuals into cyber-spying machines, in one of the first known examples of large-scale state hacking of phones rather than computers, researchers said on Thursday.

Lebanon's General Directorate of General Security (GDGS) has run more than 10 campaigns since at least 2012 aimed mainly at Android phone users in at least 21 countries, mobile security firm Lookout and digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a joint report.

The attacks, which seized control of Android smartphones, allowed the hackers to turn them into victim-monitoring devices and to steal any data from them undetected, researchers said. No evidence was found that Apple phone users were targeted, which may simply reflect the popularity of Android in the Middle East.

The state-backed hackers, dubbed "Dark Caracal" by the report's authors - after a wild cat native to the Middle East - used phishing attacks and other tricks to lure victims into downloading fake versions of encrypted messaging apps, giving the attackers full control over the devices of unwitting users.

Michael Flossman, the group's lead security researcher, told Reuters that EFF and Lookout took advantage of the Lebanon cyber spying group's failure to secure their own command and control servers, creating an opening to connect them back to the GDGS.

"Looking at the servers, who had registered it when, in conjunction with being able to identify the stolen content of victims: That gave us a pretty good indication of how long they had been operating," Flossman said in a phone interview.

The researchers found technical evidence linking servers used to control the attacks to a GDGS office in Beirut by locating wi-fi networks and internet protocol address in or near the building. They cannot say for sure whether the evidence proves GDGS is responsible or is the work of a rogue employee.

Responding to a question from Reuters about the claims made in the report, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, director general of GDGS, said he wanted to see the report before commenting on its contents.

He added: "General Security does not have these type of capabilities. We wish we had these capabilities."

Ibrahim was speaking ahead of the report’s publication.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Members of Hezbollah march with party's flags during a rally marking al-Quds Day, (Jerusalem Day) in
July 23, 2019
Suspected Hezbollah agent arrested in Uganda with Mossad's help

By ALEX WINSTON

Cookie Settings