Government Agencies Take Down FluBot Malware   

  • By David Lukic
  • Jun 08, 2022

An especially harmful strain of malware known as “FluBot” has finally been taken down. It took several federal agencies and more than a year’s time to eliminate FluBot. Europol’s investigation into the hackers behind the malware campaign is ongoing. 
Even if your company or home computer was not hit by FluBot malware, it is in your interest to update your digital safeguards.  

What is FluBot all About?

FluBot is best described as a type of spyware used on Android devices. Dutch government agencies and local police took down the malware. 
The operation spanned several nations, relying on law enforcement from around the world. Cybersecurity specialists, federal law enforcement, and police agencies in the Netherlands, the United States, Ireland, Sweden, Hungary, Finland, Belgium, Australia, and Spain worked in unison to thwart the FluBot malware.  

The campaign to remove FluBot appears to be successful, at least as of the time of this publication. Time will tell if FluBot has been permanently removed from the web. However, as admitted by the European Cybercrime Centre of Europol, federal government authorities worldwide do not know who is behind the attack.

When did FluBot First Appear?

FluBot’s roots date back to 2021. Back then, the malware was infiltrating computing devices throughout the world, with the majority of the most significant attacks occurring in Finland and Spain. Though the digital security company Proofpoint insists it first identified the existence of the malware in November of 2020, it did not gain traction until another six months. Proofpoint went on to track the malware’s campaigns throughout Poland, Italy, Hungary, the United Kingdom, and other countries in the year to follow.

How Does FluBot Target Android Users?

FluBot compromises Android devices through deception. The malware tricks the user into clicking the malware through a text message link. The truth is the link sent through the text message is harmful. The link typically appears within the text, such as “click here,” in an attempt to sucker the target into doing something of supposed importance, such as listening to a voicemail message, tracking the whereabouts of a package, or performing another action. More often than not, the request seems to be a legitimate request from a shipping company.  

The malware is advanced to the point that it displays the logo of the shipping company on the victim’s phone, making it appears as though there is an actual package out for delivery. 

As an example, FluBot uses DHL and FedEx logos to create the impression that the computer user has performed the correct action by clicking the link that is actually latent malware. The malware then obtains accessibility permissions, using the access to take the target’s login credentials for a banking app, crypto account, or other financial accounts.  

The malware is also advanced to the point that it obtains additional permissions from the computer user by presenting pop-up messages requesting permission to observe device actions, retrieve content and enable notification access. If the permissions are granted, the malware is installed, setting the stage for financial and identity theft.

Why Does FluBot Spread So Quickly?

FluBot spread faster than other forms of malware as it was carefully designed to capitalize on the contacts lists in compromised phones. The malware accesses the contacts lists in the smartphones of its victims, sending messages with the malware to those numbers, stealing those targets’ financial information, and moving on to additional targets.

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