ESET discovers DazzleSpy, a new macOS spying malware
ESET Research has discovered a new macOS malware spying on visitors to a Hong Kong radio station news site.
According to the cybersecurity research firm, a watering hole attack compromised Hong Kong radio station D100s news website. The attackers served a Safari exploit that installed cyber-espionage malware DazzleSpy on-site visitors' Macs.
The vulnerability could also have been exploited on iOS, even on devices such as the iPhone XS and newer, ESET believes.
ESET says this campaign has similarities with one from 2020, where LightSpy iOS malware was distributed the same way.
According to ESET, the payload DazzleSpy is capable of a wide variety of cyber espionage actions. ESET Research can conclude that the group behind this operation has strong technical capabilities.
The watering-hole operations the attackers have pursued show that the targets are likely to be politically active individuals in Hong Kong. The malicious code can collect a wide variety of sensitive and personal information.
The first report about the watering-hole attacks leading to exploits for the Safari web browser running on macOS was published by Google last November. ESET researchers were investigating the attacks at the same time as Google and have uncovered additional details about both the targets and malware used to compromise the victims. ESET has confirmed that the patch identified by the Google team fixes the Safari vulnerability used in the attacks.
"The exploit used to gain code execution in the browser is quite complex and had more than 1,000 lines of code. It's interesting to note that some code suggests the vulnerability could also have been exploited on iOS, even on devices such as the iPhone XS and newer," says Marc-tienne Lveill, who investigated the watering-hole attack.
"This campaign has similarities with one from 2020 where LightSpy iOS malware was distributed the same way, using iframe injection on websites for Hong Kong citizens leading to a WebKit exploit," he says.
Lveill says the payload DazzleSpy is capable of a wide variety of cyberespionage actions.
"It can collect information about the compromised computer; search for specified files; scan files in Desktop, Downloads, and Documents folders; execute the supplied shell commands; start or end a remote screen session; and write a supplied file to disk," he says.
"Given the complexity of the exploits used in this campaign, ESET Research can conclude that the group behind this operation has strong technical capabilities.
"It is also interesting that end-to-end encryption is enforced in DazzleSpy, meaning it won't communicate with its command and control (C&C) server if anyone tries to eavesdrop on the unencrypted transmission."
ESET devels IT security software and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure and consumers worldwide from increasingly sophisticated digital threats, from endpoint and mobile security to endpoint detection and response, as well as encryption and multifactor authentication.