• The DigitalBank Vault

Hacking Smartphone Cameras and Microphones

Smartphone cameras and microphones act as the eyes and ears of the digital age,

capable of capturing the smallest audio and visual details in high-definition clarity.

Unfortunately, threat actors have demonstrated the ability to hijack these smartphone components, using them to gain valuable insights about targeted government agencies and enterprises.

Given the failure of existing security measures to detect or stop this new breed of attack, organizations must look beyond software-based solutions to

protect their most valuable data.

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In contrast to physical surveillance or the placement of bugs and hidden cameras,

smartphone surveillance offers a number of key benefits for surveillants:

Obfuscation: Malware makes it easy to hide both the presence and identity of those doing the spying.

Ubiquity: Smartphones constantly accompany targets wherever they go, from their homes to their workplaces.

Reusability: The same piece of malware can get used repeatedly for a large number of targets and attack vectors.

While there’s been an evolution in the tools known to be used by threat actors for hijacking smartphone cameras and microphones, most targeted forms of surveillance malware follow a similar pattern of infection.

Step 1: Social engineering

To begin, a hacker uses social engineering techniques to lure the targeted victim, often by masquerading as a fictional person.

Communication usually occurs over SMS or social media. The victim is enticed to click a link for a malicious website fronting as a legitimate website and then uses the site to download a malicious app or update.

Step 2: Malware

During installation or execution, malware – often of the Trojan horse variety – infects the smartphone behind the scenes, unknown to the victim.

The delivery of malware often occurs in later stages in order to encourage the victim to accept the elevated permissions required for the malware to access the

smartphone’s camera and microphones.

Step 3: Remote control

Once given full control of cameras and microphones, the hacker can exfiltrate captured audio recordings, photos and videos back to a server for collection and

analysis. Depending on the type of tool used, the hacker can specify the parameters for capture – like user actions, device location and time intervals – and even perform live surveillance

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