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A Russian military contractor tied to 2016 U.S. election interference is behind a spate of mobile phone surveillance programs, researchers at Lookout mobile security have determined.

Driving the news: The mobile spyware, dubbed Monokle, was disguised as several different Android apps — ranging from pornography to Google. Monokle may have been in use since 2015.

The targets: Some of the fake apps were intended for highly specialized audiences, which may give a sense of some of the intended targets.

  • A fake version of “UzbekChat” appears to be intended for people in or communicating with Uzbekistan.
  • A fake program called "Ahrar Maps" appears to be targeted at the Ahrar al-Sham militant group in Syria.
  • A fake app titled "Caucas" appears to target the Caucasus region.

The attacker: Lookout says Monokle uses the same private internet infrastructure as an antivirus product developed by Special Technology Centre, Ltd. (STC), a Russian military contractor sanctioned by the Obama administration for its role in 2016 election tampering.

  • Two developers' names and the name "Monokle" are referenced in the code for Monokle.
  • There is evidence that an iOS version is being developed.

Unique features: Monokle is able to change security certificates on cellphones, giving STC the ability to alter data being sent to and from the phone.

Go deeper

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron should also help against the new variant of concern, the World Health Organization officials said Thursday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, the WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

1 hour ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.