On September 22, Citizenlab published a blog post regarding the use of Cytrox’s signature Predator spyware against the iPhone of the former Egyptian MP Ahmed Eltantawy. In August and September 2023, Ahmed Eltantawy was targeted via network-based injection, redirecting him to malicious web pages when he visited non-HTTPS sites, by exploiting a zero-day exploit chain (CVE-2023-41991, CVE-2023-41992, CVE-2023-41993) used to install Predator on iOS versions up to 16.6.1.
Cytrox has previously attracted attention for its involvement in the development of its Predator spyware for targeting civil society. CitizenLab and META have released a few blog posts and reports delving into Cytrox and its affiliated cyber intelligence consortium, known as Intellexa.
In December 2021, we issued a FLINT report exploring potential connections between Cytrox customers (that we track under the Lycantrox intrusion set) of and Candiru customers (tracked under the Karkadann intrusion set), prompted by similarities in the infrastructure employed by their respective clientele to compromise their targets. This overlapping infrastructure may stem from shared customers utilizing both Cytrox and Candiru technologies.
SEKOIA.IO is actively monitoring hundreds of malicious infrastructure clusters to protect its customers. In light of the recent Citizenlab blogspot and in solidarity with the efforts against cyber mercenaries, we have chosen to shed light on one of the infrastructure clusters employed by Lycantrox, potentially for compromising their targets.
While the domain patterns look like entry points for exploits kits, the scale of this infrastructure suggests a broader use of it. However, we lack concrete evidence to confirm this.
The infrastructure used by the Lycantrox consists of VPS hosted in several autonomous systems. Each Lycantrox user seems to run his own instances of VPS and manage his own domain name related to it. When looking precisely at the services listed on the instances, most of the time there are two open ports, the SSH used for the administration and a 443 managed by Nginx. On several occasions, only the 443 is available.
Unlike most of the C2s listening on 443 out there, the Nginx instance is configured to answer a certificate only if a valid domain name is provided to it, otherwise it will answer aand the connexion will be dropped.
To correlate the infrastructure, we can simply get all the IP addresses with the previously disclosed heuristic, looking for VPS with two open ports or less. This will provide us a list of hundreds of IP addresses that we will then be able to check against a passive DNS database in order to grab some domain names to test.
Only by looking at the domain names resolving this list, we can spot a few that ring a bell to us when hunting historically with Lycantrox infrastructures such as fake URL shorteners or typosquatting news websites such asor . Moreover, many of them are linked to name servers that are known to accept cryptocurrency payments and be associated with cyber criminal activities. However, we need to be sure of their use by Lycantrox.
To ensure that the mentioned domains are related to Lycantrox infrastructure, an active check can be done. The aim of that is to discover if some of them present anomalies that a default Nginx installation doesn’t show, which will be another discriminant thing to add to our final heuristic. During our investigation we found that the domains answered to any tested URL with astatus code even if they showed a 404 error page, allowing us to categorize each of them, Lycantrox related or non-Lycantrox related.
At the end, 121 unique active domain names were found being related with high confidence to an infrastructure cluster linked to the Lycantrox intrusion set. Some of the discovered domains typo squat or have few references to specific geographical areas shown in the following map.
We are also providing under “medium confidence” suspected Lycantrox related domain names that we haven’t been able to check actively during the investigation. It is worth noting that, by poking around them it’s possible to see other domains that might be related to the same threat actors, possibly used in the past or as backup infrastructure.
The only servers using subdomains pointing to the servers that answered to our heuristic are related to Madagascar. These websites ( , and ) – which seem to have been created by the threat actor itself – are wordpress blogs containing real articles taken from the Madagascan newspaper Midi Madagasikara, which is also typostatted as .
Even if their sub domains are pointing to malicious servers, we haven’t been able to detect any malicious iframes, script insertions or fingerprinting scripts leading to the malicious servers on the websites. While looking in open sources for references to these domains, we’ve seen only one occurrence of– a post of this blog was linked in a Facebook group supporting the actual president, Andry Nirina Rajoelina. Sekoia.io was not able to observe malicious content in the history of the linked webpage.
Madagascar is currently campaigning for a presidential election on 9 November 2023, where Rajoelina, current president elected in 2018 is seeking its reelection. Sekoia.io assess it is plausible Madagascar government services – such as police or domestic intelligence – did purchase and leverage Cytrox’s Predator malware to conduct political domestic surveillance, months before the election. This hypothesis is politically coherent with Rajoelina’s undemocratic approach – 2009 coup d’etat getting him in power, 2019 Senat major reform, intense propaganda on social media promoting its reforms. In addition, according to Intelligence Online, the company Intellexa, Cytrox’s parent company, brought from a french company a contract with the Madagascar government for the collection and processing of interception data.
Among the Lycantrox domains, and likely typosquat Jubi TV, a West Papua province opposition media funded by Victor Mambor, journalist and Papuan autonomy activist. Jubi TV often reports Jakarta operations towards Papuan activists. Sekoia.io assess it is possible Indonesian intelligence services purchased and leverage Cytrox’s Predator malware to conduct political surveillance, at least on autonomist movements.
It is not surprising to see Kazakhstan on that list as this country has a troubled history with cyber surveillance vendors such as NSO, RCS Lab or FinFisher to compromise devices belonging to human right activists, politicians, journalists and opponents. Based on the Lycantrox domains Sekoia.io investigated and on Astana documented use for cyber surveillance tools, it is likely Kazakhstan intelligence services purchased and use Cytrox’s Predator malware.
Sekoia.io analysts found several domains associated with Kazakhstan entities. At least six of them typosquat online medias – , or – and several others seems related to national entities (the main telecom operator, the national company for oil production, ministry of finance, the national postal service). Sekoia.io found other typosquatted domains associated with Portugal – , – that we assess as possible part of the Predator campaign in Angola. Given the multiple Angola-related and Portuguese speaking domains, Sekoia.io assess it is plausible Angola government services were also Cytrox clients.
It is worth mentioning that Lycantrox has hardened its reverse proxies since our previous investigations and after some public disclosures in order to prevent such illumination. However, sometimes, too much hardening can be discriminatory from a defender point of view, as we can see with this correlation.
Sekoia.io will continue its efforts against known cyber mercenary threat actors by illuminating their infrastructure and providing for free associated indicators of compromise (IOCs) to the community. Therefore, if you are a journalist, politician or human rights activist we encourage you to check your device for the presence of the following list of domain names, by using, for example MVT for analysis of your Android/iOS logs or SPYGUARD to check in real time your device’s network communications against a set of heuristics to detect possible implant beaconing.
Indicators of compromise
Domains mentioned in the CitizenLabs blogpost, also found during our investigation.
betly[.]me sec-flare[.]com verifyurl[.]me
High confidence, active infrastructure during the time of the investigation
candidaturasminfin[.]info grupohel[.]social notify-kz[.]info intnews[.]world taagangola[.]co afrinew[.]net tupuca[.]co newsworldsports[.]co newspool[.]net informburo[.]info dealstransfer[.]net gorlovski[.]com egypt-post[.]com podcastnow[.]club suarajubi[.]net suarajubi[.]com pasteposta[.]com post-kz[.]info mada[.]sahia-mijoro[.]com bbitly[.]com culniks[.]info folha-9[.]com shortly[.]work lttlnk[.]net mult[.]icaixa[.]info mujimbos[.]co leefco[.]net liveco[.]live showsme[.]info brkorage[.]live clckbck[.]com flowercafee[.]com soq[.]one jornaldeangola[.]info geloraku[.]id smallme[.]net quick-ads[.]com jofki[.]com midi-madgasikara[.]co flytaps[.]com factosdiarios[.]co kz-news[.]cc lilpastanews[.]co popup-pw[.]info eventes[.]org fdnews[.]info unitei[.]co businessafricaonline[.]org breaknews[.]live actualite[.]emergence-mada[.]com candidaturassonangol[.]info correiosdeangola[.]info 9o[.]gg allafrika[.]live visavfsglobal[.]co adenuncia[.]com portalxa[.]com sky-news[.]live vinhosadega[.]com shop-collect[.]com bestwesternt[.]com traffic-moi-eg[.]org conodeti[.]com gulfsports[.]info dw-news[.]co lexpressmg[.]xyz jakalas[.]online t-ready[.]me grvnews[.]live air-shopping[.]net gostosadeluxo[.]com aoatlasescort[.]com universedades[.]com bitshort[.]info intercontinentalhg[.]com clubs-k[.]com nm-weather[.]live imparcialpress[.]com blitzmedia[.]live shanam[.]org kz-shops[.]me youtub-eg[.]com elwatnanews[.]com tengrinnews[.]live jornalf8[.]com growebservice[.]com zoometting[.]com vaovao[.]soutien-a-rajoelina[.]com ongs[.]life truelocation[.]org ordas-kz[.]com glbnews[.]live newsreuter[.]com novojornal[.]co almasrylayoum[.]com dhll[.]live redirto[.]info mulherevips[.]com sicnoticia[.]com weather-live[.]com africa-confidentiel[.]fr skranski[.]com cnn-portugal[.]com wesalcity[.]net platinalines[.]com onlinewebinarmarketing[.]com btlin[.]life tclnk[.]live kalwaski[.]xyz sysnet[.]life clcti[.]net qamqors[.]net gorows[.]live moncn[.]co skollie[.]online smcu[.]me sysly[.]sbs bulk-ads[.]com gulfweather[.]live shortly[.]work gulfsports[.]live
Moderate to high confidence, dormant or inactive infrastructure during the time of the investigation.
amritacity[.]com awlaqf[.]sbs bosmata[.]com politi[.]live toomec[.]net crudco[.]info corncog[.]com dbtest[.]online espn-sports[.]live ftlink[.]info gsxr[.]me gulfnews[.]today gulfweather[.]co helpemail[.]net isalways[.]net isconn[.]net islink[.]info letmelook[.]one lnkkdis[.]xyz lnklit[.]com mg-news[.]info miceups[.]com mncnn[.]info mnmlink[.]co pklnk[.]com post-info[.]kz previeweb[.]xyz sexychats[.]nl southchinapost[.]net supasports[.]xyz syscncc[.]live tconn[.]net weatherforecast[.]services
Thank you for reading this blogpost. We welcome any reaction, feedback or critics about this analysis. Please contact us on tdr[at]sekoia.io
Feel free to read other TDR analysis here :