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21/04/2022 | British government phones were hacked with Pegasus spy software, group claims

Joseph Fitsanakis

TELEPHONE SYSTEMS BELONGING TO the British government were compromised by the Pegasus surveillance software, according to a Canadian research group.

 

The allegation was made on Monday in an investigative report by The New Yorker, which focuses on NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli digital surveillance company based near Tel Aviv. The company is behind the development of Pegasus, which is arguably the most powerful telecommunications surveillance software available in the private sector.

As intelNews and others have previously reported, Pegasus is able to install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link or download an application. Upon installation, the software provides the spying party with near-complete control of a targeted telephone. This includes the ability to browse through the device’s contents, such as photographs and videos, record conversations, as well as activate the telephone’s built-in microphone and camera at any time, without its user’s consent or knowledge.

According to The New Yorker, the information about the use of Pegasus software against British government telephone networks was disclosed by the Citizen Lab, a research unit of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, which focuses on information technology, international security and human rights. The research unit said it notified the British government in 2020 and 2021 that a number of its telephone networks had been infected with the Pegasus software. The compromised networks were allegedly being used by officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as in 10 Downing Street, which houses the office of the prime minister.

The article claims that the compromise originated from users in the United Arab Emirates, as well as users in India, Cyprus and Jordan. This does not necessarily mean that malicious actors from these countries penetrated the British government’s telephone systems. These could be spies of third countries operating abroad; alternatively, there could be a link to unsuspecting British diplomats, whose government-issue cell phones were compromised by Pegasus in foreign countries. The Citizen Lab said it could not be sure about what kind of data may have been compromised as a result of the penetration.

NSO Group Technologies was among two Israeli firms that the US Department of Commerce placed on a sanctions list in November of 2021. According to a statement issued by the US government, the two firms engaged “in activities that [were] contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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