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Fake Google Play apps steal Instagram credentials

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Instagram users have recently been the target of new credential-stealing apps appearing on Google Play store. ESET explains how it was done and how to protect yourself.

Instagram users have been the target of several new credential stealing apps, appearing on Google Play as tools for either managing or boosting the number of Instagram followers.

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Figure 1: The malicious apps on Google Play

Under the detection name Android/Spy.Inazigram,  13 malicious applications were discovered in the official Google Play store.  The apps were phishing for Instagram credentials and sending them to a remote server.

While they appear to have originated in Turkey, some used English localization to target Instagram users worldwide.  Altogether, the malicious apps have been installed by up to 1.5 million users. Upon ESET’s notification, all 13-apps were removed from the store.

How do they operate?

All the applications employed the same technique of harvesting Instagram credentials, and sending them to a remote server.  To lure users into downloading, the apps promised to rapidly increase the number of followers, likes and comments on one’s Instagram account.

Ironically, the compromised accounts were used to raise follower counts of other users, as is explained later in the article.

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Figure 2 – “Instagram followers” promising to boost Instagram engagement

As shown in the following screenshot from ESET’s analysis of one of these apps, “Instagram Followers”, it requires the user to log in via an Instagram lookalike screen. The credentials entered into the form are then sent to the attackers’ server in plain text.  After having entered the credentials, the user will find it impossible to log in, as explained in an “incorrect password” error screen.

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Figure 3 – Instagram login lookalike screen
Figure 4 – “Incorrect password” error preventing the user from logging in

The error screen also features a note suggesting the user visits Instagram’s official website and verifies their account in order to sign in to the third-party app.  As the victims are notified about unauthorised attempt to log in on their behalf and promoted to verify their account as soon as they open Instagram, the note aims to lower their suspicion in advance.

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Figure 5 – official Instagram notification about unauthorized login attempt

If the attackers are successful and the user doesn’t recognise the threat upon seeing their Instagram’s notification, the stolen credentials can be put to further use.

What happens to stolen credentials?

You might ask yourself: What use is there for a couple of (hundred thousand) stolen Instagram credentials.

Apart from an opportunity to use compromised accounts for spreading spam and ads, there are also various “business models” in which the most valuable assets are followers, likes and comments.

In ESET’s research, we’ve traced the servers to which the credentials are sent off and connected these to websites selling various bundles of Insatgram popularity boosters.

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Figure 6 – websites selling Instagram followers

The following scheme explains how this works:

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How to protect yourself?

If you have downloaded one of these apps, you will find one of its icons under your installed applications.  You will also have seen a notice from Instagram about someone attempting to log into your account, as shown in Fig 4.  Finally, your Instagram account might appear to have increased following and follower numbers, or you might be getting replies to comments you never posted.

In order to clean your device, uninstall the above mentioned apps found in your Application Manager or use a reliable mobile security solution to remove the threats for you.

To secure your Instagram account, change your Instagram password immediately.  In case you use the same password across multiple platforms, change these as well. As malware authors are known to access other web services using the stolen credentials, you are advised to use a different password on each of your accounts.

To prevent getting your social media accounts compromised, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when downloading third-party apps from Google Play:

Do not insert your sensitive information into untrusted login forms of third-party apps. To verify  whether an app is to be trusted, check the popularity of its developer by number of installs, ratings and, most importantly, content of reviews.

However, don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions, as many of the ratings and reviews can’t be trusted.  When in doubt, opt for high-quality apps marked as Top Developer or found in the Editor’s Choice category.

Last but not least, use a reputable mobile security solution to protect your device.

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Bring your network with you

At last week’s Critical Communications World, Motorola unveiled the LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. It allows rescue personal to set up dedicated LTE networks for communication in an emergency, writes SEAN BACHER.

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In the event of an emergency, communications are absolutely critical, but the availability of public phone networks are limited due to weather conditions or congestion.

Motorola realised that this caused a problem when trying to get rescue personnel to those in need and so developed its LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. The product is the smallest and lightest full powered broadband network to date and allows the first person on the scene to set up an LTE network in a matter of minutes, allowing other rescue team members to communicate with each other.

“The LXN 500 weighs six kilograms and comes in a backpack with two batteries. It offers a range of 1km and allows up to 100 connections at the same time. However, in many situations the disaster area may span more than 1km which is why they can be connected to each other in a mesh formation,” says Tunde Williams, Head of Field and Solutions Marketing EMEA, Motorola Solutions.

The LXN 500 solution offers communication through two-way radios, and includes mapping, messaging, push-to-talk, video and imaging features onboard, thus eliminating the need for any additional hardware.

Data collected on the device can then be sent through to a central control room where an operator can deploy additional rescue personnel where needed. Once video is streamed into the control room, realtime analytics and augmented reality can be applied to it to help predict where future problem points may arise. Video images and other multimedia can also be made available for rescuers on the ground.

“Although the LXN 500 was designed for the seamless communications between on ground rescue teams and their respective control rooms, it has made its way into the police force and in places where there is little or no cellular signal such as oil rigs,” says Williams.

He gave a hostage scenario: “In the event of a hostage situation, it is important for the police to relay information in realtime to ensure no one is hurt. However the perpetrators often use their mobile phones to try and foil any rescue attempts. Should the police have the correct partnerships in place they are able to disable cellular towers in the vicinity, preventing any in or outgoing calls on a public network and allowing the police get their job done quickly and more effectively.”

By disabling any public networks in the area, police are also able to eliminate any cellular detonated bombs from going off but still stay in touch with each other he says.

The LXN 500 offers a wide range of mission critical cases and is sure to transform communications and improve safety for first responders and the people they are trying to protect.

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Kaspersky moves to Switzerland

As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Kaspersky Lab is adapting its infrastructure to move a number of core processes from Russia to Switzerland.

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This includes customer data storage and processing for most regions, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates. To ensure full transparency and integrity, Kaspersky Lab is arranging for this activity to be supervised by an independent third party, also based in Switzerland.

Global transparency and collaboration for an ultra-connected world

The Global Transparency Initiative, announced in October 2017, reflects Kaspersky Lab’s ongoing commitment to assuring the integrity and trustworthiness of its products. The new measures are the next steps in the development of the initiative, but they also reflect the company’s commitment to working with others to address the growing challenges of industry fragmentation and a breakdown of trust. Trust is essential in cybersecurity, and Kaspersky Lab understands that trust is not a given; it must be repeatedly earned through transparency and accountability.

The new measures comprise the move of data storage and processing for a number of regions, the relocation of software assembly and the opening of the first Transparency Center.

Relocation of customer data storage and processing

By the end of 2019, Kaspersky Lab will have established a data center in Zurich and in this facility, will store and process all information for users in Europe, North America, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea, with more countries to follow. This information is shared voluntarily by users with the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) an advanced, cloud-based system that automatically processes cyberthreat-related data.

Relocation of software assembly

Kaspersky Lab will relocate to Zurich its ‘software build conveyer’ — a set of programming tools used to assemble ready to use software out of source code. Before the end of 2018, Kaspersky Lab products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) will start to be assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland, before being distributed to the endpoints of customers worldwide. The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.

Establishment of the first Transparency Center

The source code of Kaspersky Lab products and software updates will be available for review by responsible stakeholders in a dedicated Transparency Center that will also be hosted in Switzerland and is expected to open this year. This approach will further show that generation after generation of Kaspersky Lab products were built and used for one purpose only: protecting the company’s customers from cyberthreats.

Independent supervision and review

Kaspersky Lab is arranging for the data storage and processing, software assembly, and source code to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. Since transparency and trust are becoming universal requirements across the cybersecurity industry, Kaspersky Lab supports the creation of a new, non-profit organisation to take on this responsibility, not just for the company, but for other partners and members who wish to join.

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