U.S. State Department mobile phone was hacked by NSO Group spyware

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The US official said that the State Department is working to find out who has access to the hacked materials on these phones and how the hacking occurred. The official added that this situation may be the result of American employees obtaining a new iPhone, and that the Pegasus spyware remained on the device even after they removed it.

The State Department’s investigation revealed that the booming market for hacking tools sold by private companies poses a threat not only to human rights, but also to the national security of the United States.

The U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted NSO Group and another Israeli spyware company Candiru last month, accusing these companies of providing spyware to foreign governments and “using these tools to maliciously attack” journalists, embassy staff, and activists .

According to security researchers, Pegasus, NSO Group’s main spyware product, can remotely infect mobile phones and eavesdrop on calls or text messages.

The official said that the State Department is keeping in touch with Apple on the matter.

Reuters first reported the investigation.

The State Department will not confirm that these phones were hacked.

A spokesperson for the State Council said: “Although we cannot confirm, in general, the State Council earnestly fulfills its responsibility to protect information and continues to take measures to ensure that information is protected.” “Like every large organization with global influence, we Closely monitor the network security situation and constantly update our security posture to adapt to the adversary’s changing strategies.”

A National Security Council spokesperson pointed out that the Biden administration is “very concerned that commercial spyware such as NSO Group’s software poses serious anti-spyware and security risks to American personnel” and pointed to the recent addition of the US Treasury Department’s list of entities. The spokesperson said that efforts are also being made within the government to track down commercial hacking tools.

U.S. puts Israeli company NSO Group on blacklist for spyware use

A spokesperson for the NSO Group said that after the company learned of the incident, “in view of the seriousness of the allegations, it has decided to immediately terminate the access of the relevant customers to the system”.

“So far, we have not received any information or phone numbers, and there is no indication that NSO tools have been used in this situation,” the NSO Group statement continued. “In addition to independent investigations, the National Bureau of Statistics will cooperate with any relevant government agencies and provide complete information that we will have.”

It is not clear who used spyware to attack the phones of State Department employees.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.

Apple and other US technology companies have been increasing pressure on the NSO Group, claiming that it is suspected of violating human rights and privacy-the company has denied these allegations.

Apple sued the NSO Group last month, claiming that its sale of Pegasus to customers violated the federal anti-hacking law, and that customers allegedly used the software to monitor Apple customers. In a subsequent statement, NSO Group did not directly deal with the lawsuit, but stated that the company provided “legal tools” to combat terrorists and criminals.

John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizens Laboratory of the University of Toronto investigating NSO spyware, said that the latest news about suspected targeting of State Department phones indicates that the Department’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Security needs to do more Measures to protect the security of these spyware. equipment.

“For many years, NSO has been an obvious national security threat. The fact that these violations have occurred and Apple has been required to issue notice shows that this threat has not received sufficient attention,” Scott Layton told CNN.

Earlier this week, Ugandan Democratic President Norbert Mao stated that he had received a notice from Apple that his mobile phone had become a target.

“When you receive a threat notification from @Apple that your phone has become the target of an attack, you will know that cyber terrorism from state-sponsored cyber terrorists is real,” he said. Tweet.

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