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U.S. State Department phones hacked with Israeli Company Spyware

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U.S. State Department phones hacked using an Israeli Company Spyware, are the head news today in the World.

We are finding out that the iPhones of at least nine U.S. State Department employees were hacked. All of them contained a sophisticated spyware developed by the Israel-based NSO Group.

U.S. State Department phones hacked: How and Why

This hack campaign, targeted US officials based in Uganda, or employees working on affairs concerning this East African country. This well thought off operation took place in the last several months, two of the sources said.

If what the sources are telling us is true, then, this will be the first time the NSO technology is used against U.S. officials.

NSO Group said in a statement on Thursday that it did not have any indication their tools were used. But, they did cancel access to the relevant customers and would investigate based on the Reuters inquiry.

If our investigation shall show these actions indeed happened with NSO’s tools, such customer will be terminated permanently and legal actions will take place. NSO will also cooperate with any relevant government authority and present the full information we will have. – Said an NSO spokesperson

NSO Group
NSO Group

The NSO Group products are mainly used by government law enforcement and intelligence clients. The tools provide clients to help them monitor security threads, but they are not involved in surveillance operations.

According to a Reuters review of the said product manual, the researchers found out that the NSO Software is indeed capable of capturing encrypted data such as Messages, Photos and other sensitive information from encrypted phones. As addition to that the software can turn the smartphone into a recording device. Thus, they will be able to monitor all of the phone surroundings.

Apple’s alert to affected users did not name the creator of the spyware used in this hack.

Always-on smartphone camera by Qualcomm

TechInDeep News:

U.S. State Department phones hacked with Israeli Company Spyware, represent the widest known hacks of U.S. officials through NSO technology.

We do know that the target was U.S. officials because their associated email addresses ends with Apple ID ends in state.gov.

The hack exploited a graphics processing vulnerability that Apple did not find out about until September. This software flaw allowed NSO customers to take control of iPhones just by sending invisible, but yet tainted iMessage requests to the device. The recipients of the said message do not need to interact with any kind of prompt for the hack to be success.

Once the message is received a version of NSO surveillance software, known as Pegasus could then be installed.

Apple’s announcement that it would notify the victims came on the same day it sued NSO Group last week.

NSO Group assured its clients that the technology they create helps stop terrorism, and that they have installed mechanisms, to at least stop spying against innocent targets.

Apple’s lawsuit is a real problem for the Israeli company. This comes after the reports of allegedly ten thousand journalists, politicians and activists are on the list of Pegasus.

Conclusion

“U.S. State Department phones hacked with Israeli Company Spyware” is just another news story related to Cyber Terrorism. Cyber products like Pegasus are supervised and licensed to be exported to governments only. The purpose behind these products is related to counter-terrorism and sever crimes. But, this act of cyberterrorism reveals a major flaws in how this software is used.

Let’s wait and see how the officials handle this one.

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