New Apple Zero-Days Exploited to Goal Egyptian ex-MP with Predator Adware

The three zero-day flaws addressed by Apple on September 21, 2023, have been leveraged as a part of an iPhone exploit chain in an try and ship a spyware and adware pressure referred to as Predator focusing on former Egyptian member of parliament Ahmed Eltantawy between Could and September 2023.

“The focusing on happened after Eltantawy publicly stated his plans to run for President within the 2024 Egyptian elections,” the Citizen Lab saidattributing the assault with excessive confidence to the Egyptian authorities owing to it being a recognized buyer of the industrial spying device.

In accordance with a joint investigation performed by the Canadian interdisciplinary laboratory and Google’s Risk Evaluation Group (TAG), the mercenary surveillance device is claimed to have been delivered by way of hyperlinks despatched on SMS and WhatsApp.

“In August and September 2023, Eltantawy’s Vodafone Egypt mobile connection was persistently selected for targeting via network injection; when Eltantawy visited certain websites not using HTTPS, a device installed at the border of Vodafone Egypt’s network automatically redirected him to a malicious website to infect his phone with Cytrox’s Predator spyware,” the Citizen Lab researchers stated.


The exploit chain leveraged a set of three vulnerabilities – CVE-2023-41991, CVE-2023-41992, and CVE-2023-41993 – which may permit a malicious actor to bypass certificates validation, elevate privileges, and obtain distant code execution on focused gadgets upon processing a specifically crafted net content material.

Predatormade by an organization referred to as Cytrox, is analogous to NSO Group’s Pegasus, enabling its clients to surveil targets of curiosity and harvest delicate knowledge from compromised gadgets. A part of a consortium of spyware and adware distributors referred to as the Intellexa Alliance, it was blocklisted by the U.S. authorities in July 2023 for “enabling campaigns of repression and other human rights abuses.”

Apple Zero-Day

The exploit, hosted on a site named sec-flare[.]com, is claimed to have been delivered after Eltantawy was redirected to a web site named c.betly[.]me by way of a complicated community injection assault utilizing Sandvine’s PacketLogic middlebox located on a hyperlink between Telecom Egypt and Vodafone Egypt.

“The body of the destination website included two iframes, ID ‘if1’ which contained apparently benign bait content (in this case a link to an APK file not containing spyware) and ID ‘if2’ which was an invisible iframe containing a Predator infection link hosted on sec-flare[.]com,” the Citizen Lab stated.

Google TAG researcher Maddie Stone characterised it as a case of an adversary-in-the-middle (AitM) assault that takes benefit of a go to to a web site utilizing HTTP (versus HTTPS) to intercept and drive the sufferer to go to a special web site operated by the risk actor.

“In the case of this campaign, if the target went to any ‘http’ site, the attackers injected traffic to silently redirect them to an Intellexa site, c.betly[.]me,” Stone explained. “If the user was the expected targeted user, the site would then redirect the target to the exploit server, sec-flare[.]com.”

Eltantawy acquired three SMS messages in September 2021, Could 2023, and September 2023 that masqueraded as safety alerts from WhatsApp urging Eltantawy to click on on a hyperlink to terminate a suspicious login session originating from a purported Home windows system.

Whereas these hyperlinks do not match the fingerprint of the aforementioned area, the investigation revealed that the Predator spyware and adware was put in on the system roughly 2 minutes and 30 seconds after Eltantawy learn the message despatched in September 2021.


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He additionally acquired two WhatsApp messages on June 24, 2023, and July 12, 2023, by which a person claiming to be working for the Worldwide Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) solicited his opinion on an article that pointed to the web site sec-flare[.]com. The messages have been left unread.

Google TAG stated it additionally detected an exploit chain that weaponized a distant code execution flaw within the Chrome net browser (CVE-2023-4762) to ship Predator on Android gadgets utilizing two strategies: the AitM injection and by way of one-time hyperlinks despatched on to the goal.

Apple Zero-Day

CVE-2023-4762a sort confusion vulnerability within the V8 engine, was anonymously reported on August 16, 2023, and patched by Google on September 5, 2023, though the web large assesses that Cytrox/Intellexa could have used this vulnerability as a zero-day.

In accordance with a quick description on the Nationwide Vulnerability Database (NVD), CVE-2023-4762 considerations a “type confusion in V8 in Google Chrome prior to 116.0.5845.179 [that] allowed a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code via a crafted HTML page.”

The newest findings, apart from highlighting the abuse of surveillance instruments to focus on the civil society, underscores the blindspots within the telecom ecosystem that might be exploited to intercept community visitors and inject malware into targets’ gadgets.

“Although great strides have been made in recent years to ‘encrypt the web,’ users still occasionally visit websites without HTTPS, and a single non-HTTPS website visit can result in spyware infection,” the Citizen Lab stated.

Customers who’re prone to spyware and adware threats due to “who they are or what they do” are really useful to maintain their gadgets up-to-date and enable Lockdown Mode on iPhones, iPads, and Macs to stave off such dangers.

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Author: (The Hacker Information)
Date: 2023-09-23 02:12:00

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Alina A, Toronto
Alina A, Toronto
Alina A, an UofT graduate & Google Certified Cyber Security analyst, currently based in Toronto, Canada. She is passionate for Research and to write about Cyber-security related issues, trends and concerns in an emerging digital world.


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