Love scam or espionage? Transparent Tribe lures Indian and Pakistani officials

ESET researchers analyze a cyberespionage marketing campaign that distributes CapraRAT backdoors by means of trojanized and supposedly safe Android messaging apps – but additionally exfiltrates delicate data

ESET researchers have recognized an lively Transparent Tribe marketing campaign, concentrating on largely Indian and Pakistani Android customers – presumably with a navy or political orientation. Victims had been in all probability focused by means of a honey-trap romance rip-off, the place they had been initially contacted on one other platform after which satisfied to make use of supposedly “safer” apps, which they had been then lured into putting in. Most definitely lively since July 2022, the marketing campaign has distributed CapraRAT backdoors by means of at the very least two comparable web sites, whereas representing them as untainted variations of these safe messaging apps.

Key factors of the blogpost:

  • This Clear Tribe marketing campaign primarily targets Indian and Pakistani residents, presumably these with a navy or political background.
  • It distributed the Android CapraRAT backdoor through trojanized safe messaging and calling apps branded as MeetsApp and MeetUp; the backdoor can exfiltrate any delicate data from its victims’ gadgets.
  • These trojanized apps had been accessible to obtain from web sites posing as official distribution facilities. We imagine a romance rip-off was used to lure targets to those web sites.
  • Poor operational safety round these apps uncovered consumer PII, permitting us to geolocate 150 victims.
  • CapraRAT was hosted on a site that resolved to an IP deal with beforehand utilized by Clear Tribe.

Marketing campaign overview

Moreover the inherent working chat performance of the unique professional app, the trojanized variations embrace malicious code that we now have recognized as that of the CapraRAT backdoor. Clear Tribe, also referred to as APT36, is a cyberespionage group recognized to make use of CapraRAT; we now have additionally seen comparable baits deployed in opposition to its targets previously. The backdoor is able to taking screenshots and images, recording cellphone calls and surrounding audio, and exfiltrating another delicate data. The backdoor can even obtain instructions to obtain information, make calls, and ship SMS messages. The marketing campaign is narrowly focused, and nothing suggests these apps had been ever accessible on Google Play.

We recognized this marketing campaign when analyzing a pattern posted on Twitter that was of curiosity attributable to matching Snort guidelines for each CrimsonRAT and AndroRAT. Snort guidelines determine and alert on malicious community visitors and could be written to detect a particular kind of assault or malware.

CrimsonRAT is Home windows malware, recognized for use solely by Clear Tribe. In 2021, the group began to focus on the Android platform, utilizing a modified model of an open-source RAT named AndroRAT. It bears similarities to CrimsonRAT, and has been named CapraRAT by Development Micro in its research.


Based mostly on the Android Bundle Package (APK) title, the primary malicious software is branded MeetsApp and claims to offer safe chat communications. We had been capable of finding a web site from which this pattern may have been downloaded (meetsapp[.]org); see Determine 1.

Determine 1. Distribution web site of CapraRAT posing as MeetsApp

That web page’s obtain button results in an Android app with the identical title; sadly, the obtain hyperlink is just not alive anymore (https://phone-drive[.]on-line/obtain.php?file=MeetsApp.apk). On the time of this analysis, phone-drive[.]on-line resolved to 198.37.123[.]126, which is similar IP deal with as phone-drive.on-line.geo-news[.]television, which was used previously by Transparent Tribe to host its spyware and adware.


Evaluation of the MeetsApp distribution web site confirmed that a few of its sources had been hosted on one other server with an analogous area title – meetup-chat[.]com – utilizing an analogous service title. That web site additionally offered an Android messaging app, MeetUp, to obtain with the identical bundle title ( as for MeetsApp, and having the identical web site emblem, as could be seen in Determine 2.

Determine 2. Distribution web site of CapraRAT posing as MeetUp

Attribution to Clear Tribe

Each apps – from the tweet and from the pattern downloaded from meetup-chat[.]com – embrace the identical CapraRAT code, talk with the identical C&C server (66.235.175[.]91:4098), and their APK information are signed utilizing the identical developer certificates.

Therefore, we strongly imagine that each web sites had been created by the identical risk actor; each domains had been registered across the identical time – July 9th and July 25th, 2022.

Each apps are based mostly on the identical professional code trojanized with CapraRAT backdoor code. Messaging performance appears both to be developed by the risk actor or discovered (perhaps bought) on-line, since we couldn’t determine its origin. Earlier than utilizing the app, victims must create accounts which can be linked to their cellphone numbers and require SMS verification. As soon as this account is created, the app requests additional permissions that permit the backdoor’s full performance to work, resembling accessing contacts, name logs, SMS messages, exterior storage, and recording audio.

The area phone-drive[.]on-line on which the malicious MeetsApp APK was positioned began to resolve to the identical IP deal with across the identical time because the area phone-drive.on-line.geo-news[.]television that was used previously marketing campaign managed by Clear Tribe, as reported by Cisco. Moreover that, the malicious code of the analyzed samples was seen within the earlier marketing campaign reported by Trend Micro the place CapraRAT was used. In Determine 3 you may see a comparability of malicious class names from CapraRAT accessible from 2022-01 on left facet, and its more moderen variant having the identical class names and performance.

Determine 3. Malicious class title comparability of older CapraRAT (left) and more moderen model (proper)


Throughout our investigation, weak operational safety resulted within the publicity of some sufferer knowledge. This data allowed us to geolocate over 150 victims in India, Pakistan, Russia, Oman, and Egypt, as seen in Determine 4.

Determine 4. Sufferer distribution

Based mostly on our analysis, potential victims had been lured to put in the app by a honey-trap romance rip-off operation, the place almost definitely they had been first contacted on a special platform after which persuaded to make use of the “safer” MeetsApp or MeetUp app. Now we have beforehand seen such baits being utilized by Clear Tribe operators in opposition to their targets. Discovering a cell quantity or an e-mail deal with they will use to make first contact is often not troublesome.

Technical evaluation

Preliminary entry

As described above, the malicious MeetUp app has been accessible at meetup-chat[.]com, and we imagine with excessive confidence that the malicious MeetsApp was accessible at meetsapp[.]org. Neither app can be robotically put in from these areas; the victims had to decide on to obtain and set up the apps manually. Contemplating that solely a handful people had been compromised, we imagine that potential victims had been extremely focused and lured utilizing romance schemes, with Clear Tribe operators almost definitely establishing first contact through one other messaging platform. After gaining the victims’ belief, they instructed shifting to a different – allegedly safer – chat app that was accessible on one of many malicious distribution web sites.

There was no subterfuge suggesting the app was accessible in Google Play.


After the sufferer indicators into the app, CapraRAT then begins to work together with its C&C server by sending primary system information and waits to obtain instructions to execute. Based mostly on these instructions, CapraRAT is able to exfiltrating:

  • name logs,
  • the contacts checklist,
  • SMS messages,
  • recorded cellphone calls,
  • recorded surrounding audio,
  • CapraRAT-taken screenshots,
  • CapraRAT-taken images,
  • a listing of information on the system,
  • any specific file from the system,
  • system location,
  • a listing of operating apps, and
  • textual content of all notifications from different apps.

It may possibly additionally obtain instructions to obtain a file, launch any put in app, kill any operating app, make a name, ship SMS messages, intercept obtained SMS messages, and obtain an replace and request the sufferer to put in it.


The cell marketing campaign operated by Clear Tribe remains to be lively, representing itself as two messaging purposes, used as a canopy to distribute its Android CapraRAT backdoor. Each apps are distributed by means of two comparable web sites that, based mostly on their descriptions, present safe messaging and calling companies.

Clear Tribe in all probability makes use of romance rip-off baits to lure victims into putting in the app and continues to speak with them utilizing the malicious app to maintain them on the platform and make their gadgets accessible to the attacker. CapraRAT is remotely managed and based mostly on the instructions from the C&C server, it could actually exfiltrate any delicate data from its victims’ gadgets.

Operators of those apps had poor operational safety, leading to sufferer PII being uncovered to our researchers, throughout the open web. Due to that, it was potential to acquire some details about the victims.

ESET Analysis gives personal APT intelligence experiences and knowledge feeds. For any inquiries about this service, go to the ESET Threat Intelligence web page.



SHA-1 Bundle title ESET detection title Description
4C6741660AFED4A0E68EF622AA1598D903C10A01 Android/Spy.CapraRAT.A CapraRAT backdoor.
542A2BC469E617252F60925AE1F3D3AB0C1F53B6 Android/Spy.CapraRAT.A CapraRAT backdoor.


IP Supplier First seen Particulars
66.235.175[.]91 N/A 2022-09-23 C&C.
34.102.136[.]180 GoDaddy 2022-07-27 meetsapp[.]org – distribution web site.
194.233.70[.]54 123-Reg Restricted 2022-07-19 meetup-chat[.]com – distribution web site.
198.37.123[.]126 Go Daddy 2022-01-20 phone-drive[.]on-line – APK file hosted web site.
194.233.70[.]54 Mesh Digital Restricted 2022-09-23 share-lienk[.]information – APK file internet hosting web site.

MITRE ATT&CK strategies

This desk was constructed utilizing version 12 of the MITRE ATT&CK framework.

Tactic ID Identify Description
Persistence T1398 Boot or Logon Initialization Scripts CapraRAT receives the BOOT_COMPLETED broadcast intent to activate at system startup.
T1624.001 Occasion Triggered Execution: Broadcast Receivers CapraRAT performance is triggered if one among these occasions happens: PHONE_STATE, NEW_OUTGOING_CALL, BATTERY_CHANGED, or CONNECTIVITY_CHANGE.
Discovery T1420 File and Listing Discovery CapraRAT can checklist accessible information on exterior storage.
T1424 Course of Discovery CapraRAT can get hold of a listing of operating purposes.
T1422 System Community Configuration Discovery CapraRAT can extract IMEI, IMSI, IP deal with, cellphone quantity, and nation.
T1426 System Info Discovery CapraRAT can extract details about the system together with SIM serial quantity, system ID, and customary system data.
Assortment T1533 Knowledge from Native System CapraRAT can exfiltrate information from a tool.
T1517 Entry Notifications CapraRAT can acquire notification messages from different apps.
T1512 Video Seize CapraRAT can take images and exfiltrate them.
T1430 Location Monitoring CapraRAT tracks system location.
T1429 Audio Seize CapraRAT can document cellphone calls and surrounding audio.
T1513 Display screen Seize CapraRAT can document the system’s display utilizing the MediaProjectionManager API.
T1636.002 Protected Consumer Knowledge: Name Logs CapraRAT can extract name logs.
T1636.003 Protected Consumer Knowledge: Contact Record CapraRAT can extract the system’s contact checklist.
T1636.004 Protected Consumer Knowledge: SMS Messages CapraRAT can extract SMS messages.
Command and Management T1616 Name Management CapraRAT could make cellphone calls.
T1509 Non-Customary Port CapraRAT communicates with its C&C over TCP port 4098.
Influence T1582 SMS Management CapraRAT can ship SMS messages.


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