Security researchers observed the newly documented Mandrake espionage platform carefully selecting Android devices for further exploitation.

Bitdefender discovered Mandrake in early 2020 while the espionage platform was in the process of conducting phishing attacks against cryptocurrency wallet applications, mobile banking programs and other financial software on Android devices. The security firm subsequently analyzed the threat and found that it had been in circulation since 2016.

In its analysis, Bitdefender found that the espionage platform selected just a handful of Android devices for further exploitation. It then used manipulation tactics, including disguising a series of powerful permission requests as an end-user license agreement, to infect those selected devices. Those rights gave the threat the ability to steal credentials, exfiltrate data and conduct secondary phishing attacks on compromised devices.

Not the Only Threat to Target Android Devices in Recent Years

Mandrake is not the only sophisticated threat that has targeted Android users. Back in 2018, for instance, Wandera spotted an Android malware family called “RedDrop” using sophisticated techniques to collect a vast amount of information from an infected device.

In March 2019, Security Without Borders uncovered “Exodus,” an Android spyware platform that targeted primarily Italian users with extensive surveillance and data-collection capabilities. More recently in April 2020, Kaspersky Lab discovered several overlaps between the “PhantomLance” operation and other attack campaigns conducted by the OceanLotus group.

How to Defend Against Mandrake

Security professionals can help defend their organizations against espionage platforms such as Mandrake by enforcing security policies that limit the types of apps that users can install on their work devices. Those policies should specifically restrict allowable installations to apps from trusted developers on official app marketplaces that have been vetted by the security team. Additionally, infosec personnel should invest in a mobile device management (MDM) solution that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and other tools to scan for sophisticated threat behaviors.

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