Milan, Italy is known to designers as ground zero of the most influential fashion brands. The Italian city is also epicenter of the latest digital threat — sophisticated spyware.
Dark and dangerous ‘Hermit Spyware’ spreading on iPhone and Android
Google’s secretive army of threat assessment security experts is warning about the spread of dangerous government-grade spyware. The Threat Analysis Group, aka TAG, says if you have an iPhone or Android device, keep reading as those are targets of what is being called the ‘Hermit Spyware’ threat.
Hermit is similar to spyware made for law enforcement and surveillance tools to break into and spy on important deeply personal details is being tapped by nefarious governments.
Known compromises Hermit Spyware does to a targeted device
- take control of iOS or Android device
- malware remains unknown and invisible
- eavesdrops on conversations on phone and in an earshot using a built-in mic
- monitors and reads every message
- camera can be accessed to take photos, record video and monitor live
- credentials to banks, accounts, medical records, personal information harvested for access
Safe-looking but menacing text link can fool anyone
More concerning is how Hermit spyware is effectively being spread to innocent people. Apps are being loaded with the spyware payload pretending to be various trustable sources.
In one case, an ISP or Internet service provider, like the one you pay to receive home broadband service, is complicit in the covert scheme. Their participation hinges on turning off the data flowing from the internet to the targeted person’s phone.
Then a text message pretending to be support from the provider contains a link saying that it has identified an internet connection problem and here’s how to fix it. Victims are encouraged to click the link which takes them to a download page with familiar and legit-looking apps. The apps are anything but safe. That’s where the malware is transferred onto your device.
Tip: Never download an app from any link or alternative source other than the official Apple App Store and Google Play store where apps undergo a security review to identify dangers before being made available to others.
Once that poisonous app link is clicked, you fall into their grip. Your device and everything on it, flowing through it and controlling it are now in the hands of others with no good intention.
There are several other methods to infect iOS and Android devices with Hermit spyware. The threat team has already seen it propagating in three countries from Italy and the spyware knows no boundaries. Even though Apple has now revoked all known certificates linked to Hermit, it does not mean your phone is safe.
How to protect yourself from Hermit Spyware
First off, none of these are guarantees but can be helpful as we are still learning the nuances of how Hermit spyware works.
- Only download apps from Apple App Store and Google Play – never from a link
- Lock up all of your devices by using antivirus security protection. Good antivirus security works to identify confirmed threats contained in links coming toward your phone and disables the danger. See the best antivirus security protection for 2022 here
- Watch for unusual glitches. If you notice your iPhone or Android phone acting a little off – such as slower or something you cannot explain, let that be a warning flag
- Reboot your iPhone or Android daily. This may help reset the spyware or some of its evil actions.
For Android users, Google said it is taking the extraordinary step to reach out and warn users it suspects were targeted and compromised.
This government-grade spyware threatens our personal safety, security, and privacy. We will continue to update this story as more information about protecting yourself becomes more understood.
In the meantime, I will be dreaming of the safe days I enjoyed like the dumb analog flip phone I had pre-smartphone era. Take the extra steps you read here to protect yourself and the ones you love.