Spying digital

Researchers find cross-platform RAT for Windows, Android

A remote access tool used to commandeer a Windows PC has been found to also include an Android component, an indication that hackers are seeking cross-platform RATs for PCs and mobile devices, a researcher says.

The Android application package file (APK) was found in the WinSpy RAT sold on the Web. Such tools are legal, but are often used in malware.

FireEye spotted WinSpy in an email sent to a U.S. financial institution during a spear-phishing attack. In examining the application, FireEye found that it also contained the Android APK.

spyware privacy

The authors likely made the application cross-platform because of a growing demand among attackers for Android-based RATs, Nart Villeneuve, senior threat intelligence researcher for FireEye, said. Other recently discovered RATs have been built exclusively for Android. Examples include Dendroid, AndroRAT and GimmeRAT.

“What’s interesting is to see Android functionality built into a normal Windows RAT,” Villeneuve said. “I think that’s a trend we’re going to see more and more—a demand for cross-platform RATs.”

Social engineering needed

The WinSpy Android RAT would not be easy to get on the device. The user would have to be tricked into installing it, either through a Web site or as an email attachment.

Once on the device, the attacker could use the application to capture screenshots and track the phone’s location through its GPS.

The Windows version of WinSpy performs more like a full-feature RAT, which is often used by system administrators or support personnel to perform diagnostics or other tasks on a remote PC. Such RATs can upload and download files, capture screenshots of the desktop and take pictures with the computer’s webcam.

While legal, RATS are often marketed to appeal to hackers. For example, on the WinSpy site, the author advertises that the software is “fully undetectable,” which means it can evade anti-virus engines, Villeneuve said.

“It’s a bit of a slippery slope,” he said.

An attacker using WinSpy could access all captured information from compromised PCs and Android devices through the servers of the software’s author. The application also comes with a user interface for managing all devices running WinSpy.

Why an attacker would use WinSpy servers and not their own is not clear.

“It could be that they’re a little bit naïve in not understanding how the tool works,” Villeneuve said. “Or, they could understand exactly how the tool works and like the fact that they can shield themselves by hiding behind the people who run WinSpy.”

WinSpy itself does not pose a serious danger, since it is flagged as malware by anti-virus products. What CSOs should pay attention to is attackers’ continued interest in Android.

“They (attackers) are going to be developing new tools and more novel ways to gain access to Android devices,” Villeneuve said.

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