The Italian cyber offense company Hacking Team created a remote-control trojan that can be used by governments to gain full access to anyone’s smartphone. Although the Hacking Team says that the spyware, called Galileo, is intended to help users track down cyber criminals, researchers from Kaspersky Lab and Citizen Lab have discovered that the trojan is being used to monitor human rights activists, journalists, and politicians.
The trojan can attack Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices. The spyware can be customized to target specific devices, using software vulnerabilities called “zero days.” Kaspersky Lab says that the trojan can target jailbroken iPhones when users connect them to their computers. The spyware stealthily hides its activities from the user, so it can reportedly track voice, video, and the content of your messages without you knowing about it. Supposedly, the trojan can even track your position via Google Maps.
The researchers identified a message that was broadcast over the trojan’s control servers and found the main command center for the spyware. From there, they were able to identify the locations of several servers that use Galileo to spy on smartphone users. The vast majority of those servers were discovered in the United States, but several more were located in Kazakhstan, Ecuador, the U.K., and Canada.
Kaspersky Lab told journalists that although it is impossible to confirm that the governments of these countries are using the spyware to track their citizens, it would make sense to place command and control centers in the same area where users are being tracked, so as to avoid “legal issues and server seizures.”