Cybersecurity

Russian defense contractor develops Android surveillance tool: report

An Android surveillance tool developed by a Russian defense contractor was sanctioned by the government for interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a report from a U.S. cybersecurity firm.

The firm, Lookout, discovered the spyware tool called Monokle developed by Russia-based company Special Technology Centre Ltd (STC), according to Lookout's Wednesday report

According to the firm, STC supported GRU, the Russian intelligence directorate, in its interference in the election.

Lookout called Monokle's features "something that Lookout researchers have never seen in the wild before."

It said that the tool's abilities include taking data from third-party applications, using predictive text dictionaries to find out what interests a target and recording a device's screen while it is being unlocked, allowing attackers access to a user's PIN, pattern or password. 

The report said that Monokle exists in very few applications, meaning attacks are likely "highly targeted." The tool is likely still "being actively deployed," according to Lookout. 

A spokesperson for Google - which owns Android - told The Hill that the apps in question were not in the Google Play store and have been been flagged as being potentially harmful.

The spokesperson added that users with the apps on their devices will receive a warning if they have Google Play Protect enabled.

Lookout reported that a version of Monokle for Apple's iOS operating system is likely being developed.  

Updated 1:20 p.m.

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