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The New Arab Staff

Iran hackers used mobile phone apps to spy on Iranian, Kurdish dissidents

Hackers had access to dissidents' calls, messages, and locations [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 February, 2021

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Iran have used phone apps, games, and wallpaper to spy on users.

Iran has used malicious phone applications, pro-Islamic State group wallpaper, games, and email attachments to infect hundreds of mobiles and PCs, giving hackers access to sensitive information from Iranian and Kurdish dissidents devices, according to the BBC.

The spies targeted around 1,000 people in 12 countries and encouraged them to download infected apps - one posing as a Tehran-based restaurant and another mimicking a popular game.

The spyware then hacked users' phones, allowing agents to snoop on personal calls, text messages, and locations, the report states.

Researchers found that Domestic Kitten or APT-50 targeted around 1,200 people with around 600 successful hacks, giving the digital spies access to highly sensitive and personal information.

Around ten operations were started by Domestic Kitten with four still active, according to the BBC, the earliest beginning in 2017.

Another group, Infy or Prince Of Persia, spied on activists' PCs by encouraging them to download malicious email attachments, including one infected document that offered low-interest loans to disabled war veterans.

Once opened, a spying tool was activated giving hackers access to sensitive information.

"It is clear that the Iranian government is investing significant resources into cyber-operations," Check Point cyber-research head Yaniv Balmas told the BBC.

"The operators of these Iranian cyber-espionage campaigns seem to be completely unaffected by any counter-activities done by others, even though both campaigns had been revealed and even stopped in the past. They have simply restarted."

The researchers said that the recent Iranian hacking campaign was "far superior" to previous ones.

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