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Facebook neutralizes spy operation of Palestinian hackers

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Cybercriminals have used fake and hacked accounts to trick social media users.


Facebook experts have neutralized the operations of two Palestinian-sponsored hacker groups. The criminals used the social network to distribute malware for espionage purposes.

According to representatives of the tech giant, the first group was associated with the Preventive Security Service of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and the second, known as Arid Viper (Desert Falcon or APT-C-23), is believed to be associated with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

Cyber espionage campaigns took place in 2019 and 2020. The first grouping targeted users in Palestine. Another group attacked users in the Palestinian territories, in Syria, as well as in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Libya.

The hackers used specially designed Android malware disguised as secure chat apps. The program secretly hijacked device metadata, tracked keystrokes, and uploaded the data to the Firebase platform. The attacks also used SpyNote malware to track calls and gain remote access to hacked phones.

Cybercriminals used fake and hacked accounts to create fictitious persons, often posing as young women, as well as supporters of Hamas, Fatah, various military groups, journalists and activists in order to forge relationships with potential victims and direct them to phishing pages.

Arid Viper used the new Phenakite spyware in campaigns to steal sensitive data from iPhone users without jailbreak. The Phenakite malware was distributed under the guise of a full-featured chat application called MagicSmile. The group also managed 179 domains that were used to host malware or act as C&C servers.

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