Hundreds of Israeli soldiers had their phones compromised by malware after falling for catfishing attacks purportedly launched by Hamas, Forbes reports. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the attackers set up fake profiles posing as attractive women on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Telegram, and then used the profiles to strike up conversations with IDF soldiers. Eventually, the attackers would convince the soldiers to download one of three different malware-laden dating apps to their Android phones.
When a soldier clicked on the link to install one of these dating apps, they’d be presented with an error message informing them that their device didn’t support that version of the app. In the background, however, the malware was installed as a hidden application.
Once on the phone, the malware would harvest data from the device and send it back to the attackers. The malware had administrative privileges and could access the infected phone’s camera, location, contacts, browser history, and text messages.
Researchers at Check Point analyzed the malware and told Forbes that the operation required a great deal of effort and commitment on the part of the attackers.
“The amount of resources invested is huge,” one of the researchers said. “Think about this—for every soldier targeted, a human responded with text and pictures....Some victims even stated they were in contact, unknowingly, with the Hamas operator for a year.”
The IDF said the attackers used competent social engineering skills to give credibility to their ruse. For example, they claimed they couldn’t speak Hebrew very well or said they had hearing difficulties in order to avoid talking on the phone or video chatting with the victims.
Most people don’t realize how easy it is to trick someone into running malware on their device, especially if an attacker is focused on a particular person. New-school security awareness training can teach your employees to be wary of any message that asks them to click on a link or provide information, even if it appears to come from someone they trust.