New details on commercial spyware vendor Variston

Threat Analysis Group (TAG) has been tracking the activities of commercial spyware vendors for years, using our research to improve the safety and security of Google’s products and share intelligence with our industry peers. TAG’s research underscores that the commercial surveillance industry is thriving and has expanded significantly in recent years, creating risk for Internet users around the globe. Commercial spyware puts advanced surveillance capabilities in the hands of governments who use them to spy on journalists, human rights activists, political opposition and dissidents. Google and TAG are committed to disrupting these threats, protecting users, and raising awareness of the risks posed by the growing commercial spyware industry.

Continuing this work, today, TAG is sharing findings on an exploitation framework with likely ties to Variston IT, a company in Barcelona, Spain that claims to be a provider of custom security solutions. Their Heliconia framework exploits n-day vulnerabilities in Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Defender and provides all the tools necessary to deploy a payload to a target device. Google, Microsoft and Mozilla fixed the affected vulnerabilities in 2021 and early 2022. While TAG researchers have not detected active exploitation, based on the research below, it appears likely these were utilized as zero-days in the wild.

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Source: Google Threat Analysis Group