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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

Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Photo: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via Reuters

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conservation with Oprah Winfrey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.

Updated 3 hours ago - Axios Twin Cities

In photos: Thousands rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Demonstrators on March 7 outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, will begin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of protesters marched through Minneapolis' streets Sunday, urging justice for George Floyd on the eve of the start of former police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death, per AFP.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
7 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.