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China-Linked Hackers Spy on Texts With MessageTap Malware

October 31, 2019

Researchers have discovered a new malware used for cyber-espionage efforts by China-linked threat group APT41. The malware intercepts telecom SMS server traffic and sniffs out certain phone numbers and SMS messages – particularly those with keywords relating to Chinese political dissidents.

The espionage tool, dubbed MessageTap, was discovered by FireEye Mandiant during a 2019 investigation of a cluster of Linux servers within an unspecified telecom network; these operated as Short Message Service Center (SMSC) servers. In mobile networks, SMSCs are responsible for sending SMS messages to an intended recipient or storing them until the recipient has come online.

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