TEHRAN— According to various reports, an Israeli company named NSO has hacked into the iPhones of at least 9 employees of the U.S. State Department officials using a spyware, as well as attempting to hack the U.S. Special Envoy on Iran, Robert Malley’s mobile phone.Four informed individuals stated that the iPhones of at least 9 U.S. State Department officials had been hacked by anonymous hackers using the advanced spyware of the controversial Israeli company NSO.
According to Reuters, two informed sources said that the hackings had taken place in the past few months and targeted U.S. State Department staffers based in Uganda or focusing on issues related to the East African country.
The hacks, first reported by Reuters, represent the largest-scale hacking operation against U.S. officials using the Israeli NSO technology.
According to the Pegasus Project, a top U.S. diplomat, Robert Malley, who presently works as the Biden administration’s envoy to Iran and was one of the key negotiators of the Obama administration’s Iran deal, appears to have been picked as a person of interest by an NSO customer. There is no proof that Malley was hacked, and NSO has categorically denied that the disclosed database at the center of the Pegasus Project had anything to do with the company or its clients.
According to NSO, its government clients are unable to deploy its software against U.S. numbers because it has been made “technically impossible.”
When asked by the Guardian to name the clients who had been disconnected, an NSO spokeswoman said the corporation would not reveal information about its customers.
Reuters wrote in its report that it has not yet been able to identify the perpetrators of these attacks on employees.
The NSO group said in a statement issued on Thursday that it had no indication of any use of the company’s spyware, yet, it had denied access to customers and said it would investigate at Reuters’ request.
A NSO spokesman said, “If our investigation shows that these actions took place with NSO tools, the account associated with these cyber-attacks will be blocked and legal action will be taken in this regard.”
“NSO cooperates with any relevant government authority and we provide the complete information we obtain,” the spokesman added.
Officials at the Ugandan embassy in Washington, as well as Apple spokesperson declined to comment.
Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab recently identified the code behind an NSO attack that was allegedly used to infect iPhones as recently as July. The hack, which was quickly patched by Apple, took advantage of a flaw in the company’s iMessage function, which is available on all Apple devices.
NSO has indicated that it will attempt to persuade the Biden administration to remove its name off the blacklist. However, the most recent disclosure casts major question on whether this will happen anytime soon.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the hacking, citing a recent Commerce Department decision to include the controversial Israeli NSO on the list of companies banned from trading.
The U.S. Department of Commerce last month sanctioned the NSO group and another spyware company based on the decision that these companies produce and supply spyware to foreign governments in order to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businessmen, activists, academics and embassy staff.
The spyware released by NSO is not only able to capture encrypted messages, photos and other sensitive encrypted information from spyware-infected phones, but also turn the hacked phones into recording tools to track and monitor the hacked person, according to the Reuters report.
According to the report, Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO in the U.S. court last week, and at the same time said that it would inform the owners of iPhone phones in reference to the company’s spying.
According to the report, the victims of the latest attack related to the Israeli company NSO, which Apple informed them about, included American citizens and were easily identified as U.S. government employees as their email addresses were linked to their Apple IDs.
Informed sources said that they and other targets that Apple has informed about in several countries have been infected with the same GPU vulnerability that Apple was unaware of and did not fix until September.
Researchers investigating the spy campaign say that, at least since February, the software flaw has allowed some NSO users to simply control iPhones by sending infected iMessages to infected devices, and copies of the NSO spyware known as Pegasus can then be installed on the hacked phones.
This is not the first time that Pegasus’s spyware scandals have been exposed, and despite the company’s repeated scandals, Israeli officials are trying to persuade U.S. officials to refrain from punishing NSO.
Last month, there were reports that the traces of Pegasus spyware, a product of the Israeli company NSO, had been found on the mobile phones of six Palestinian human rights activists.
Pegasus spyware was a product of NSO company.
Traces of Pegasus spyware were found on the cell phones of six Palestinian rights activists.
In mid-July, 17 media outlets reported that Pegasus had been used to successfully hack 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists from around the world.
Various media outlets, including the Washington Post, Le Monde, the Guardian, and several other sources, revealed that the Israeli spyware had been sold to some countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to hack into the personal information of several important personalities worldwide.
However, recently, the Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid denied that the NSO cyber company was involved with the regime, and in a recent case of hacking into the phones of the U.S. State Department staff, the Israeli embassy in Washington said that targeting U.S. officials are in serious violation of Tel Aviv laws.
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy said in justifying NSO espionage that products such as spywares were designed in strict accordance only with governments to combat terrorism and organized crime, and if the State Department staffers’ phones was true, it is a clear violation of the laws of Israel.
According to a senior Biden administration source who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, the threat to U.S. soldiers abroad was one of the reasons the administration was tightening down on corporations like NSO and pursuing new worldwide discussions about espionage limitations. According to the official, there has been “systematic exploitation” of NSO’s Pegasus malware in many nations.
Original News : https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/467712/Israel-tries-hacking-Robert-Malley-s-mobile-amid-Vienna-talks