Asia-Pacific News

Hong Kong protesters' phones targeted by Chinese malware, experts say

Devin Coldewey
Pro-democracy demonstrators hold signs ahead of a ceremony marking China's 65th National Day following over night protests in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong.
Xaume Olleros | AFP | Getty Images

As if tear gas and the "Great Firewall of China" weren't enough to deal with, it now appears that Hong Kong protesters' cellphones are being targeted by a highly sophisticated kind of malware possibly originating in China. The "Xsser mRAT" malicious software, which once installed can access practically everything on a phone, was discovered by Lacoon, an Israeli cyber-security outfit. In a blog post, the experts explain that it's aimed at iOS users, and is related to malware that began targeting Android users in Hong Kong last week. This cross-platform targeting suggests a powerful adversary like a government is behind it, and the use of Chinese code in the malware's central servers suggests which government it most likely is, Lacoon says. China has already targeted mobile users by blocking Instagram, censoring messages in apps like WeChat and blocking searches on Baidu. So far there is no evidence that the iOS version of Xsser has reached the wild; it was discovered in non-operational form and had to be installed by the security experts manually, but a "weaponized" version could be in the works.

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