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'Powerful' Android malware steals WhatsApp messages

Security researchers find new smartphone surveillance malware that can steal WhatsApp messages

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An advanced spyware, capable of stealing WhatsApp messages and secretly recording Android phone users, has come to light by security researchers.

Dubbed ‘Skygofree', researchers have revealed that the malware is trained to infect Android smartphones and features hacking capabilities that have never been seen before. When infected, Skygofree can transform smartphones into spy devices in specific locations and force phones into recording audio and video, as well as take pictures and steal text messages and voice notes. The researchers add that this is all able ‘without arousing suspicion'.  

The malware was first created in 2014 and has continued to develop as it now has the ability to connect an infected device to WiFi networks controlled by other attackers.

According to Kaspersky Lab, Skygofree is ‘one of the most advanced mobile implants' to have surfaced. Alexey Firsh, malware analyst, Targeted Attacks Research, Kaspersky Lab, said: "High end mobile malware is very difficult to identify and block and the developers behind Skygofree have clearly used this to their advantage: creating and evolving an implant that can spy extensively on targets without arousing suspicion.

"Given the artefacts we discovered in the malware code and our analysis of the infrastructure, we have a high level of confidence that the developer behind the Skygofree implants is an Italian IT company that offers surveillance solutions, rather like HackingTeam."

Kaspersky Lab's traced Skygofree back to Negg, an Italian IT company that offers spying tools and counts Italian law enforcement among its customers.  

Android users are advised to defend their devices using security software to ensure they are using trustworthy sites.