Skygofree: highly advanced, powerful Android surveillance software active since 2014

Android spyware tool uncovered by Kaspersky linked with Italian surveillance software company Negg

It accesses encrypted WhatsApp messages through the Accessibility Services created to help visually or aurally impaired users by scanning what's displayed on the device's display, and can also hijack calls, SMS messages, calendar entries and other information.

The implant, named Skygofree includes functionality never seen in the wild before, such as location-based audio recording through infected devices.

The company says that the malware is called Skygofree (named after one of the domains on which it was first spotted), and is usually disguised as a downloadable app on fake sites created to resemble those of mobile carriers, and promises to increase your internet speeds.

The malware is able to carry out location-based audio recordings, meaning it can automatically begin recording the device's surroundings when that device enters a specified place.

Overall, 48 different commands are available to execute by the attackers, Kaspersky explained.

Dubbed Skygofree, the malware was first developed back in 2014 and has gone through a number of code rewrites since then. One Android ransomware found by ESET in October used Android accessibility permissions to activate device administrator rights and silently set itself as the default Home app. Skygofree uses it to grab WhatsApp messages displayed on the screen. Skygofree is capable of taking pictures, capturing video, and seizing call records, text messages, gelocation data, calendar events, and business-related information stored in device memory.

Skygofree can also connect a user's phone to Wi-Fi networks controlled by the attackers, providing them with more access to the device.

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Kaspersky Lab has uncovered a new security vulnerability affecting Android devices, claiming it's one of the world's most powerful Android spyware tools.

"Mobile spyware is becoming more effective than PC variants, because victims keep their mobile phone close by them at all times, and such implants can exfiltrate a large amount of sensitive information", Vicente Diaz, Deputy Head of Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky Lab told ZDNet. Many domains are registered for this objective.

The company also found that the spyware appears to be targeting Windows users with recently developed modules.

The victims of this malware were all located in Italy, Kaspersky Lab reported, and it was unclear why they were targeted.

While Alexey Firsh, one of the analysts who wrote the report, warns, "High-end mobile malware is very hard 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".

Kaspersky Lab is confident that the developer behind the Skygofree implants is an Italian IT company that offers surveillance solutions.

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