Since our initial discovery of a malicious mobile device management (MDM) platform that was loading fake applications onto smartphones, we have gained greater insight into the attacker’s methods. We now know how the attacker took advantage of a common MDM feature and used an iOS profile to hide and disable the legitimate versions of the fake apps to force the use of the malicious stand-ins.

Cisco Talos previously published two articles (here and here) on the subject. In the aforementioned campaigns, the attackers enrolled iOS devices into the MDM and used the devices to control the victim’s devices, deploying malicious apps disguised as the messaging services WhatsApp, Telegram and Imo, as well as the web browser Safari.

After additional research, we now know that the attacker deployed the malicious apps after the actor deployed a profile on the enrolled devices and abused the age rating restriction functionality that exists on iOS devices. The age ratings for WhatsApp and Telegram are 12-plus and 17-plus, respectively. After the age rating limit was set to 9-plus, the installed legitimate applications disappeared from the device

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Talos Group

Talos Security Intelligence & Research Group