Free Android Spy Apps Hidden – Most of the spyware you hear about today is a powerful, state-backed exploit that can silently and remotely hack an iPhone anywhere in the world. These powerful hacking tools are bought and operated by governments, often targeting their most vocal critics — journalists, activists and human rights defenders.
There is another type of spyware that is more prevalent and more likely to affect ordinary people: consumer-grade spyware apps controlled by ordinary people.
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Consumer-grade spyware is often sold under the name of child monitoring software, but also uses the term “stalkerware” because of its ability to track and monitor other people or partners without their consent. Stalkerware apps are surreptitiously installed by someone with physical access to someone’s phone and are hidden from the home screen, but will silently and continuously upload call logs, text messages, photos, browsing history, precise location data and call recordings from a phone without its owner. knowledge. Most of these spyware apps are built for Android, because it’s easier to plant malicious apps than iPhones, which have tighter restrictions on the types of apps that can be installed and the data that can be accessed.
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Last October, it revealed security issues with consumer-grade spyware that put the personal phone data, messages and locations of hundreds of thousands of people, including Americans, at risk.
But in this case it’s not just a spyware application that exposes people’s phone data. It is a whole group of Android spyware apps that share the same security vulnerability.
First discovered the vulnerability as part of a broader exploration of consumer-grade spyware. The vulnerability is simple, which is what makes it so destructive, allowing remote access almost untethered to the device’s data. But efforts to privately disclose security flaws to prevent them from being misused by bad actors have been met with silence from the parties behind the operation and from Codero, the web company that hosts the back-end server infrastructure of the spyware operation.
The nature of spyware means that those targeted may not even know that their phone has been compromised. Without expecting that the vulnerability will be fixed anytime soon, it is now revealing more about the spyware application and operation so that owners of affected devices can uninstall the spyware themselves, if it is safe to do so.
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Given the complexity of notifying victims, CERT/CC, the vulnerability disclosure center at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, has also published a note on spyware.
Here are the findings of a months-long investigation into a massive stalkerware operation that collected data from about 400,000 phones worldwide, with the number of victims growing daily, including in the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Jamaica , Philippines, South Africa and Russia.
At the forefront of the operation is a collection of white-label Android spyware apps that continuously collect the contents of a person’s phone, each with custom branding and fronted by the same website with a U.S. corporate persona. which offers protection by obfuscating the link to the real phone. operator. Behind the app is a server infrastructure controlled by an operator, known as a Vietnam-based company called 1Byte.
Found nine very similar spyware apps presented with different branding, some with more obscure names than others: Copy9, MxSpy, TheTruthSpy, iSpyoo, SecondClone, TheSpyApp, ExactSpy, FoneTracker and GuestSpy.
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Apart from their names, the spyware applications have almost identical features under the hood, even the same user interface to set up the spyware. Once installed, each app allows the person who planted the spyware to access a web dashboard to view the victim’s phone data in real time — their messages, contacts, location, photos and more. Just like apps, each dashboard is a clone of the same web software. And, when analyzing the app’s network traffic, we found that all of those apps were contacting the same server infrastructure.
But because the nine apps share the same code, the same web dashboard and infrastructure, they also share the same vulnerabilities.
The vulnerability in question is known as unsafe direct object reference, or IDOR, a class of bug that exposes files or data on a server due to sub-par, or no, security controls in place. It’s just like needing a key to unlock your mailbox, but that key can also unlock every other mailbox in your neighborhood. IDOR is one of the most common types of vulnerabilities; has discovered and disclosed similar flaws privately before, such as when LabCorp disclosed thousands of lab test results, and the recent case of CDC-approved health app Docket exposing digital COVID-19 vaccine records. IDOR has the advantage that it can often be fixed at the server level without having to roll out a software update to an app, or in this case a group of apps.
But bad coding doesn’t just expose ordinary people’s personal phone data. The entire spyware infrastructure is riddled with bugs that reveal more details about the operation itself. That’s how we learned that data on about 400,000 devices — though it could be more — was compromised by the operation. Bad coding also leads to the disclosure of personal information about its affiliates who bring in new paying customers, information they think is private; even the operator himself.
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Behind every branded app, web dashboard and front-facing website is what appears to be a fictional parent company with its own corporate website. The parent company’s websites are visually identical and all claim to be “software outsourcing” companies with over a decade of experience and hundreds of engineers, with each website claiming one of nine branded applications as their main product.
If the same website isn’t an immediate red flag, the parent company’s website is all hosted on the same web server. also searched state and public databases but found no current business records existed for any of the purported holding companies.
One of the many parent companies is Jexpa. Like the rest of the parent company, Jexpa doesn’t seem to exist on paper, but for a while an entity by that name did exist. Jexpa was registered as a technology company in California in 2003, but was suspended from the state business registry in 2009. The company’s domain was abandoned and allowed to expire.
The expired Jexpa domain was purchased by an undisclosed buyer in 2015. (found no evidence of any connection between the former Jexpa and the 2015 buyer of Jexpa.com.) Jexpa.com is now said to be a software outsourcing company site, but is full of stock photos and fake pages and use the likeness of some real-world identity, such as “Leo DiCaprio,” but use a photo of Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles. The operators have gone to great lengths to hide their true involvement in the operation, including registering email addresses using other people’s identities — in one case using the name and photo of an NYPD deputy commissioner and in another a former shipping executive.
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But Jexpa runs deeper than just the name. found some overlap between Jexpa and branded spyware apps, including a set of release notes that were likely not meant to be public but were left — and exposed — on its servers.
The release notes contain about three years of detailed changes and fixes to the back-end web dashboard, which explains how the spyware has evolved since the first log was created in late 2018, with the latest fix being applied in April 2021. The notes are signed by developer with a Jexpa.com email address.
The note also describes fixes to what the developer calls the Jexpa Framework, a stack of software running on its servers used to host operations, each brand’s web dashboard and storage for large amounts of phone data collected from the spyware application itself. We know this because, as they did with the release notes, the developers also left their technical documentation and source code for the Jexpa Framework exposed on the internet.
The documentation presents specific technical configurations and detailed instructions, with lightly edited screenshots that reveal parts of several domains and subdomains used by the spyware app. The same screenshot also reveals the operator’s website itself, but more on that in a moment. The documentation page also uses examples of spyware applications themselves, such as SecondClone, and explains in detail how to set up a new content storage server for each app from scratch, even down to which web host to use — such as Codero, Hostwinds and Alibaba — as it allows certain disk storage setup required for the app to work.
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For companies with no clear business filings, operators go to great lengths to make Jexpa look like the top of the operation. But the operator left a trail of internet records, exposed source code and documentation linking Jexpa, the Jexpa Framework and a group of spyware applications to a Vietnam-based company called 1Byte.
Shortly after we contacted 1Byte about the vulnerability and its link to Jexpa, the Jexpa Framework documentation page was put up
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