State Department phones hacked with Israeli NSO Group software: report

  • The phones of at least nine state department officials were hacked by NSO Group software, according to Reuters.
  • The NSO Group, an Israeli-based company, was recently blacklisted by the Biden administration.
  • An NSO spokesman denied the allegations, saying the company would “cooperate with any relevant government authority.”

The iPhones of at least nine State Department employees were hacked using software from the NSO Group, an Israeli-based company that sells the world’s most efficient products.


Spyware

Systems, according to a new Reuters report.

The report states that the hack targeted US officials who live in Uganda or focus on it, but did not identify the perpetrator. The Washington Post reports that Apple has warned 11 executives in recent months that their phones have been hacked by NSO software, known as Pegasus.

An NSO spokesman told Reuters: “If our investigation reveals that these actions actually took place with NSO tools, such users will be permanently removed and legal action will be taken.” The spokesman added that the company would “co-operate with any relevant government authority and provide the complete information we have.”

In a statement to Insider, an NSO spokesman said: “After receiving the inquiry, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we will expedite the access of relevant users to the system, given the severity of the allegations. At this point, we have not received any information or phone numbers, nor have we received any indication that NSO tools have been used in this case. “

“To be clear, the installation of our software by the customer is done through phone numbers. As mentioned earlier, NSO’s technologies are barred from operating on US (+1) numbers. After selling the software to a licensed user, the NSO has no choice but to know who the consumer targets are, for example, we were not aware of the issue and could not be, “the spokesman added. ۔

Researchers believe that the Pegasus system can break into smartphone devices in a number of ways, some of which require no action on the part of the smartphone owner, and give hackers access to call records, photos and web browser history. Or turn the phone into a listening device.

A State Department spokesman told Insider in a statement that the department could not confirm the report but added that it “takes its responsibility to protect its information seriously and continues to work to ensure that information is protected.” Takes action. “

The spokesman added: “Like any major organization with a global presence, we keep a close eye on the cyber security situation, and are constantly updating our security position to adapt to the changing tactics of the opposition. “

“As part of our commitment to putting human rights at the center of US foreign policy, the Biden-Harris administration is taking action to prevent the proliferation and misuse of digital tools used in repression. Improving citizens’ digital security, countering cyber threats, and reducing illegal surveillance, “the spokesman said, referring to the recent blacklist by NSO Group management.

Last month, the US Department of Commerce blacklisted NSO and another Israeli firm, Candiru. Israeli firms were “blacklisted” on the basis of evidence that they developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used the tools to distribute the tools to government officials, journalists, businessmen, workers, academics and embassy workers. Was used maliciously, “the department said in a statement.

The NSO group’s spyware has allegedly targeted the smartphones of journalists and opponents, including those close to the late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated in 2018 at the Saudi consulate.

In a statement issued Friday, the National Security Council said, “We are deeply concerned that the NSO group’s software, such as commercial spyware, poses a serious counter-intelligence and security threat to US personnel. The reason is the Biden-Harris administration. The Commerce Department’s list of entities includes several companies involved in the development and expansion of these tools. “

Apple has also sued NSO Group for allegedly targeting and monitoring iPhone users through Pegasus spyware.

The Israeli embassy told Reuters that the use of spyware on US officials would represent a “grave violation” of its laws.

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