Researchers from Cisco's Talos security team have uncovered detailed information about Predator, a sophisticated spyware sold to governments worldwide, which can secretly record voice calls, collect data from apps like Signal and WhatsApp, and hide or disable apps on mobile devices. Ars Technica reports: An analysis Talos published on Thursday provides the most detailed look yet at Predator, a piece of advanced spyware that can be used against Android and iOS mobile devices. Predator is developed by Cytrox, a company that Citizen Lab has said is part of an alliance called Intellexa, "a marketing label for a range of mercenary surveillance vendors that emerged in 2019." Other companies belonging to the consortium include Nexa Technologies (formerly Amesys), WiSpear/Passitora Ltd., and Senpai. Last year, researchers with Google's Threat Analysis Group, which tracks cyberattacks carried out or funded by nation-states, reported that Predator had bundled five separate zero-day exploits in a single package and sold it to various government-backed actors. These buyers went on to use the package in three distinct campaigns. The researchers said Predator worked closely with a component known as Alien, which "lives inside multiple privileged processes and receives commands from Predator." The commands included recording audio, adding digital certificates, and hiding apps. [...] According to Talos, the backbone of the malware consists of Predator and Alien. Contrary to previous understandings, Alien is more than a mere loader of Predator. Rather, it actively implements the low-level capabilities that Predator needs to surveil its victims. "New analysis from Talos uncovered the inner workings of PREDATOR and the mechanisms it uses to communicate with the other spyware component deployed along with it known as 'ALIEN,'" Thursday's post stated. "Both components work together to bypass traditional security features on the Android operating system. Our findings reveal the extent of the interweaving of capabilities between PREDATOR and ALIEN, providing proof that ALIEN is much more than just a loader for PREDATOR as previously thought to be." In the sample Talos analyzed, Alien took hold of targeted devices by exploiting five vulnerabilities -- CVE-2021-37973, CVE-2021-37976, CVE-2021-38000, CVE-2021-38003, CVE-2021-1048 -- the first four of which affected Google Chrome, and the last Linux and Android. [...] The deep dive will likely help engineers build better defenses to detect the Predator spyware and prevent it from working as designed. Talos researchers were unable to obtain Predator versions developed for iOS devices.

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