Feb 07 2024

Google says spyware vendors behind most zero-days it discovers

Category: Spyware,Zero daydisc7 @ 10:05 am

Google says spyware vendors behind most zero-days it discovers…

Commercial spyware vendors (CSV) were behind 80% of the zero-day vulnerabilities Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) discovered in 2023 and used to spy on devices worldwide.

Zero-day vulnerabilities are security flaws the vendors of impacted software do not know about or for which there are no available fixes.

Google’s TAG has been following the activities of 40 commercial spyware vendors to detect exploitation attempts, protect users of its products, and help safeguard the broader community by reporting key findings to the appropriate parties.

Based on this monitoring, Google has found that 35 of the 72 known in-the-wild zero-day exploits impacting its products over the last ten years can be attributed to spyware vendors.

“This is a lower-bounds estimate, as it reflects only known 0-day exploits. The actual number of 0-day exploits developed by CSVs targeting Google products is almost certainly higher after accounting for exploits used by CSVs that have not been detected by researchers, exploits where attribution is unknown, and cases where a vulnerability was patched before researchers discovered indications of exploitation in-the-wild.” – Google

Those spyware vendors use the zero-day flaws to target journalists, activists, and political figures as directed by their customers, including governments and private organizations.

Some notable CSVs highlighted in Google’s report are:

  • Cy4Gate and RCS Lab: Italian firms known for the “Epeius” and “Hermit” spyware for Android and iOS. The former acquired the latter in 2022, but operate independently.
  • Intellexa: Alliance of spyware firms led by Tal Dilian since 2019. It combines technologies like Cytrox’s “Predator” spyware and WiSpear’s WiFi interception tools, offering integrated espionage solutions.
  • Negg Group: Italian CSV with international reach established in 2013. It is known for “Skygofree” malware and “VBiss” spyware, targeting mobile devices through exploit chains.
  • NSO Group: Israeli firm famous for Pegasus spyware and other sophisticated espionage tools. It continues operations despite sanctions and legal issues.
  • Variston: Spanish CSV providing tailored security solutions. It collaborates with other vendors for zero-day exploits and is linked to the Heliconia framework, expanding in the UAE.

These vendors sell licenses to use their products for millions of dollars, allowing customers to infect Android or iOS devices using undocumented 1-click or zero-click exploits.

Some of the exploit chains utilize n-days, which are known flaws for which fixes are available, yet patching delays still make them exploitable for malicious purposes, often for extended periods.

Google says that CSVs have grown very aggressive in their hunt for zero-days, developing at least 33 exploits for unknown vulnerabilities between 2019 and 2023.

In the appendix of Google’s detailed report, one can find a list of 74 zero-days used by 11 CSVs. Of those, the majority are zero-days impacting Google Chrome (24) and Android (20), followed by Apple iOS (16) and Windows (6).

When white-hat researchers discover and fix the exploited flaws, CSVs often incur significant operational and financial damage as they struggle to reconstruct a working alternative infection pathway.

“Each time Google and fellow security researchers discover and disclose new bugs, it causes friction for CSVs and costs them development cycles,” says Google.

“When we discover and patch vulnerabilities used in exploit chains, it not only protects users, but prevents CSVs from meeting their agreements to customers, preventing them from being paid, and increasing their costs to continue operating.”

However, this is not enough to stop the proliferation of spyware, as the demand for these tools is strong, and the contracts are too lucrative for CSVs to give up.

Google calls for more action to be taken against the spyware industry, including higher levels of collaboration among governments, the introduction of strict guidelines that govern the use of surveillance technology, and diplomatic efforts with countries hosting non-compliant vendors.

Google is proactively countering spyware threats through solutions like Safe Browsing, Gmail security, the Advanced Protection Program (APP), and Google Play Protect, as well as by maintaining transparency and openly sharing threat information with the tech community.

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Tags: Pegasus spyware, spyware vendors

Jan 25 2024

US judge rejects spyware developer NSO’s attempt to bin Apple’s spyware lawsuit

Category: Spywaredisc7 @ 8:05 am

Judge says anti-hacking laws fits Pegasus case “to a T”


A US court has rejected spyware vendor NSO Group’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Apple that alleges the developer violated computer fraud and other laws by infecting customers’ iDevices with its surveillance software.

Apple sued NSO, developer of the notorious Pegasus spyware, back in November 2021 and asked the court to permanently ban NSO from using any Apple software, services, or devices. The lawsuit alleges that company violated the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), California’s Unfair Competition Law, and the terms of use for Apple’s own iCloud when its spyware was installed on victims’ devices without their knowledge or consent. NSO now must answer Apple’s complaint by February 14.

Pegasus infected Apple customers’ devices via a zero-click exploit called FORCEDENTRY, according to Cupertino. Once it lands on phones, the spyware allows users to snoop on phone calls, messages, and access the phone’s camera and microphone without permission.

Despite the surveillance-software maker’s claims that it only sells to government agencies, and even then, only to investigate terrorism or other serious crimes, the software has repeatedly been used to spy on journalists, activists, political dissidents, diplomats and government officials. This has led to US sanctions against the company and several lawsuits.

Last March, NSO asked the court to toss Apple’s lawsuit, arguing that Cupertino should be required to sue the developer in Israel, its home jurisdiction. It also claimed that Apple can’t sue over CFAA violations because the iGiant itself didn’t suffer any damages or loss [PDF].

The court, in its ruling on Monday, dismissed these arguments, noting that “the anti-hacking purpose of the CFAA fits Apple’s allegations to a T, and NSO has not shown otherwise.”

“A ‘loss’ is ‘any reasonable cost to any victim, including the cost of responding to an offense, conducting a damage assessment, and restoring the data, program, system, or information to its condition prior to the offense, and any revenue lost, cost incurred, or other consequential damages incurred because of interruption of service’ … That is precisely the loss Apple has alleged here,” the judge continued [PDF].

When asked about the judge’s ruling, an NSO Group spokesperson said the software maker will fight on.

“The motion to dismiss is part of the legal process in this case,” the NSO spokesperson told The Register. “The technology in question is critical to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in their efforts to maintain public safety. We are confident that once the arguments are presented, the Court will rule in our favor.”

Apple, meanwhile, took the win, and a spokesperson told The Register that this lawsuit is just one of the ways the iGiant is fighting back against spyware vendors.

These include the new Lockdown Mode security feature, the threat notifications it sends to users who may be targets in nation-state attacks, and a $10 million grant to support civil society organizations that research spyware threats and conduct advocacy on the topic through the Ford Foundation.

How a Spy in Our Pocket Threatens the End of Privacy, Dignity, and Democracy

Global Spyware Scandal: Exposing Pegasus

Pegasus Spyware – ‘A Privacy Killer’

CyberWar, CyberTerror, CyberCrime and CyberActivism

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Tags: NSO Group, Pegasus spyware

Dec 20 2023

How to Take Your Phone Off the Grid

Category: Information Security,Smart Phonedisc7 @ 9:00 am

Without a Trace: How to Take Your Phone Off the Grid


A guide on anonymizing your phone, so you can use it without it using youBy Monique O. Madan and Wesley Callow

Hi, I’m Monique, an investigative reporter here at The Markup. There are a few key moments in my 15-year career that have led me on a quest to phone anonymity: 

When a dark-tinted sedan followed me home after I published a controversial story, which led to the resignation of someone in power.

When a reader published my personal address in a virtual chatroom filled with thousands of people—the reader used my phone number to do a reverse look-up search, and found my address. 

The last straw? 

When the federal government traced my phone number back to me and blocked me from communicating with incarcerated people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When I joined the team in August, my first order of business was making sure I had a secure way to connect with the people trusting me with their lives, while simultaneously keeping myself safe. I needed an off-the-grid phone. 

Enter Wesley Callow, our IT support specialist. 

What happens next is straight out of a scene of your favorite detective movie as he went about procuring the gear to build a phone that would protect my privacy. Just picture him in a cloak. 

If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that cash is king. And, I need a trench coat.

Step 1: Cash, Cards, and a SIM 

Just think of me, Wesley, as a London Fog trench coat, collar-popped-to-perfection kind of guy. When Monique reached out, I embarked on a trip into the world of phone anonymity—a meticulous descent into the “no half measures” underworld, to borrow from the series Breaking Bad, a place where digits and data are in disguise.

First thing: In order to make an anonymous purchase, I needed cash—bank and credit cards leave too much of a trace. I drove to our local grocery store and bought some groceries for my teenage boys. This is an almost daily trip, so definitely no suspicious behavior to be spotted. I chatted up the self-checkout assistant about the boys and got an extra $60 in cash back.  

When it comes to service providers, Mint Mobile emerged as a top contender, providing relative ease in activation without demanding personal details. They’re like that low-profile café where the barista doesn’t ask for your life story.

I then ventured off to two local Targets where, to my dismay, there were no Mint Mobile prepaid SIM cards. For my third attempt, I tried Best Buy.

I walked in, head down, headed to the cellphone section. Then, the prepaid carrier section. I perused the spinning display, and then, at the very bottom, there was ONE prepaid Mint Mobile SIM left! It was meant to be. For $45, I got three months of service.

I then headed to my next destination: a nearby drug store. I purchased an Apple Store gift card for $10, again using cash. (You could take an Android phone off the grid too, though, but we’re a Mac newsroom).

It was perfect. Zero people were in the store and the clerk was not chatty. I dropped the cash down, exact change—and bounced from the scene. Now I was ready. 

Step 2: Wipe the Phone 

I had a phone plan. Now, I needed a phone. To begin, Apple/Mac experts suggest purchasing a used, budget-friendly iPhone exclusively with cash. This method, they insist, guarantees no direct ties to one’s identity. Monique had an old phone hiding in her drawer. But first, I needed to make sure it had amnesia.

I had Monique send me her old iPhone via a box I shipped to her with a return label inside of it. Once I received it, I wiped the phone back to its factory settings and made sure there was no preexisting SIM card inside. 

Then I put the phone into recovery mode, connected it to an old Mac with no Apple ID, and reformatted it again. Now, it’s double wiped for safety.

Everyone loves a fresh start, right?

Step 3: Identity

For my public Wi-Fi, I infiltrated my local Starbucks. The scent of caramel frappuccinos and whispered secrets filled the air. Here, amidst the caffeine loyal, I set up accounts with Mint, Proton Mail, and Apple. The creation of a disposable email account is essential (Proton Mail is the favored platform), followed by setting up an Apple ID (You’ll need it to download apps on your phone) with your Apple gift card. And if you’re prompted to provide a billing address? Input a random, unrelated location. You won’t ever be connecting a credit card with a real billing address anyway.

Opt for a six-digit security code—not 123456.

Using this now-naked phone, my fresh Mint Mobile SIM card, and an Apple gift card, I sought out a public space with no association to me, such as a library or café—anywhere that has communal computers and Wi-Fi, so we can activate the phone’s service. But wait, Wesley, I thought public Wi-Fi was insecure! Like all things, you have to weigh the pros and cons. The odds of being compromised on a public Wi-Fi network are low in the time it would take to set up the accounts we need, and in return, we don’t have personal location data or a personal IP address attached to those accounts. 

Once your accounts are set up, turn off Wi-Fi.

For security purposes, Face ID and Touch ID are a no-go. The unanimous advice: opt for a six-digit security code. And don’t make it 123456.

Step 4: Customizing An Anonymous Device

Post-setup, disable Bluetooth. This is important because Bluetooth signals can be intercepted by third-party devices within range, and that allows hackers to access sensitive information, such as your phone’s contacts and messages. The throwaway Proton Mail email address plays another vital role, acting as the gateway to access Proton, a virtual private network (VPN) that masks all phone application traffic. 

It’s like giving your phone a discreet disguise—instead of my trench coat, think Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. 

Always keep your VPN on, and routinely check that it’s working. Subsequently, any required apps should only be downloaded with the VPN engaged.

The Hard Part: Staying Anonymous

Maintaining this cloak of invisibility comes with challenges. If you find this overwhelming, we totally get it. But doing at least some of these steps will protect you—just find the balance and tradeoffs that work for you. For day-to-day usage, some golden rules emerge:

This phone should strictly be used for its principal purpose. Do not use it for casual online strolls, superfluous apps, or note storage.

  • Cash is essential, but getting your hands on it requires a bit of effort in this cashless society. To keep your phone off the grid, you have to repeat the same routine: take out cash and buy gift cards. You can’t use a credit or bank card.
  • Add more data to your SIM card and pay your phone bill with a gift card. Don’t opt into auto-renewal, since that requires that you use a credit card.
  • After using public Wi-Fi, go into Network Settings, and “forget” the network, so you leave no digital trail.
  • Never connect to your personal home Wi-Fi. Companies can match home addresses with IP addresses. If you have to use it in a pinch, afterward, go into Network Settings, and “forget” the network.
  • Instead of home Wi-Fi, use your phone’s data plan and Proton VPN to go online. Proton VPN will make sure your IP address is obscured.
  • If you’re traveling with your off-the-grid phone and a personal phone, turn Wi-Fi off on one phone, if you’re using it on the other. Or, turn off your off-the-grid phone entirely, and only turn it back on when you’re at your destination. The goal here is to prevent any overlap between which networks your phones connect to.
  • The final and perhaps the most vital rule: This phone should strictly be used for its principal purpose. Do not use it for casual online strolls, superfluous apps, or note storage, though I know that last one will be hard for journalists. If you must keep notes, disable any notes apps from creating a file in the cloud: Settings → Apple ID → iCloud → Apps Using iCloud → Show All.

The Takeaway 

Monique here. Do you feel like you just ran a marathon after reading that? Do you need a moment to process? I sure did. 

As a gritty street reporter at heart, I’ve learned true and complete anonymity isn’t easy. But in this line of work, it’s worth it. That means constantly backing up my documents and keeping a duplicate contact list elsewhere, in case my line is compromised and I need a new burner. 

Wait, did I just use the word “burner”? Feels like I’m living in an episode of How to Get Away with Murder. (Hi, Viola Davis!)

Covering criminal justice, immigration, social justice, and government accountability means my cellphone is my best friend. It’s not only the first line of communication with my sources, but it’s my first line of trust. My phone hosts applications to make contact with people behind bars—oftentimes the only line the incarcerated has to the outside world. It’s the device that rings in the middle of the night from inconsolable parents who have been separated from their children at the border. 

Additionally, it confidentially stores my emails and documents people send to me, and it lets me access encrypted chatrooms that help me better understand and network with the communities I cover. 

In today’s hyper-connected era, the lengths some are going to preserve their phone anonymity are undeniably intricate. While not a path for everyone, this approach paints a vivid picture of the extreme measures individuals are willing to take in the name of privacy.

As for me, I keep a copy of Wesley’s guide tucked away, so I don’t forget the many, many rules of how to master this cash-gift-card-SIM-phone-wipedown operation. I want my sources—and people on the fence on whether or not to trust me—to know that I am committed to protecting their identity, privacy, and stories.

Living Off the Grid: A Teen’s Guide On How to Navigate Life Without a Cellphone 

The Invisible Web: How to Stay Anonymous Online

When spyware turns phones into weapons

How a Spy in your pocket threatens the end of privacy, dignity and democracy

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Tags: Living Off the Grid, Pegasus spyware, Spyware, Stay anonymous, Take Your Phone Off the Grid

Dec 11 2023

AI and Mass Spying

Category: AI,Cyber Spy,Spywaredisc7 @ 12:31 pm

Spying and surveillance are different but related things. If I hired a private detective to spy on you, that detective could hide a bug in your home or car, tap your phone, and listen to what you said. At the end, I would get a report of all the conversations you had and the contents of those conversations. If I hired that same private detective to put you under surveillance, I would get a different report: where you went, whom you talked to, what you purchased, what you did.

Before the internet, putting someone under surveillance was expensive and time-consuming. You had to manually follow someone around, noting where they went, whom they talked to, what they purchased, what they did, and what they read. That world is forever gone. Our phones track our locations. Credit cards track our purchases. Apps track whom we talk to, and e-readers know what we read. Computers collect data about what we’re doing on them, and as both storage and processing have become cheaper, that data is increasingly saved and used. What was manual and individual has become bulk and mass. Surveillance has become the business model of the internet, and there’s no reasonable way for us to opt out of it.

Spying is another matter. It has long been possible to tap someone’s phone or put a bug in their home and/or car, but those things still require someone to listen to and make sense of the conversations. Yes, spyware companies like NSO Group help the government hack into people’s phones, but someone still has to sort through all the conversations. And governments like China could censor social media posts based on particular words or phrases, but that was coarse and easy to bypass. Spying is limited by the need for human labor.

AI is about to change that. Summarization is something a modern generative AI system does well. Give it an hourlong meeting, and it will return a one-page summary of what was said. Ask it to search through millions of conversations and organize them by topic, and it’ll do that. Want to know who is talking about what? It’ll tell you.

The technologies aren’t perfect; some of them are pretty primitive. They miss things that are important. They get other things wrong. But so do humans. And, unlike humans, AI tools can be replicated by the millions and are improving at astonishing rates. They’ll get better next year, and even better the year after that. We are about to enter the era of mass spying.

Mass surveillance fundamentally changed the nature of surveillance. Because all the data is saved, mass surveillance allows people to conduct surveillance backward in time, and without even knowing whom specifically you want to target. Tell me where this person was last year. List all the red sedans that drove down this road in the past month. List all of the people who purchased all the ingredients for a pressure cooker bomb in the past year. Find me all the pairs of phones that were moving toward each other, turned themselves off, then turned themselves on again an hour later while moving away from each other (a sign of a secret meeting).

Similarly, mass spying will change the nature of spying. All the data will be saved. It will all be searchable, and understandable, in bulk. Tell me who has talked about a particular topic in the past month, and how discussions about that topic have evolved. Person A did something; check if someone told them to do it. Find everyone who is plotting a crime, or spreading a rumor, or planning to attend a political protest.

There’s so much more. To uncover an organizational structure, look for someone who gives similar instructions to a group of people, then all the people they have relayed those instructions to. To find people’s confidants, look at whom they tell secrets to. You can track friendships and alliances as they form and break, in minute detail. In short, you can know everything about what everybody is talking about.

This spying is not limited to conversations on our phones or computers. Just as cameras everywhere fueled mass surveillance, microphones everywhere will fuel mass spying. Siri and Alexa and “Hey Google” are already always listening; the conversations just aren’t being saved yet.

Knowing that they are under constant surveillance changes how people behave. They conform. They self-censor, with the chilling effects that brings. Surveillance facilitates social control, and spying will only make this worse. Governments around the world already use mass surveillance; they will engage in mass spying as well.

Corporations will spy on people. Mass surveillance ushered in the era of personalized advertisements; mass spying will supercharge that industry. Information about what people are talking about, their moods, their secrets—it’s all catnip for marketers looking for an edge. The tech monopolies that are currently keeping us all under constant surveillance won’t be able to resist collecting and using all of that data.

In the early days of Gmail, Google talked about using people’s Gmail content to serve them personalized ads. The company stopped doing it, almost certainly because the keyword data it collected was so poor—and therefore not useful for marketing purposes. That will soon change. Maybe Google won’t be the first to spy on its users’ conversations, but once others start, they won’t be able to resist. Their true customers—their advertisers—will demand it.

We could limit this capability. We could prohibit mass spying. We could pass strong data-privacy rules. But we haven’t done anything to limit mass surveillance. Why would spying be any different?

This essay originally appeared in Slate.

 #artificial intelligence, #espionage, #privacy, #surveillance

Mass Government Surveillance: Spying on Citizens (Spying, Surveillance, and Privacy in the 21st Century)

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Tags: espionage, Mass Spying, Pegasus spyware, privacy, rtificial intelligence

Jun 29 2023

Hollywood insider’s potential bid for NSO prompts warning from White House

Category: Spywaredisc7 @ 1:22 pm


The White House National Security Council cautioned on Wednesday that it will review any attempted takeover of foreign commercial surveillance software by an American company to determine whether the acquisition poses a “counterintelligence threat” to the U.S. government.

The statement came in response to reporting from the Guardian revealing that a chewing gum heir and producer of several Adam Sandler movies is considering a bid for the NSO Group, including its powerful Pegasus spyware.

The Biden administration is concerned about the spread of foreign commercial surveillance tools like Pegasus and believes they “pose a serious counterintelligence and security risk to U.S. personnel and systems,” the statement said.

The Hollywood producer, Robert Simonds, was responsible for more than 30 movies that made in excess of $6 billion earlier in his career and more recently had worked as the chairman of STX Entertainment, which Variety calls a “fully integrated entertainment outlet” focused on expanding into emerging global markets on a variety of platforms. Simonds’ credits with Sandler include “Happy Gilmore,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Billy Madison.”

According to the Guardian, Simonds was recently picked to run the Luxembourg-based holding company controlling NSO. Sources told the Guardian that Simonds is considering ways to take over some of the spyware firm’s assets in an effort to give the Five Eyes intelligence partnership of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand exclusive access to the potent technology.

Pegasus and similar tools are being “misused around the world to enable human rights abuses and target journalists, human rights activists, political opposition members, or others perceived as dissidents and critics,” the White House statement said, noting that the Biden administration has launched a government-wide effort to stop Pegasus and other foreign commercial surveillance software from spreading. In March, the administration issued an executive order barring all U.S. government agencies from using the spyware, among other measures.

In its statement the White House also warned that U.S. companies should “be aware that a transaction with a foreign entity on the Entity List will not automatically remove the designated entity from the Entity List.” The list, published by the United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), restricts trade with specified foreigners, foreign entities, or governments. Companies included on the Entity List must meet strict licensing requirements for exports.

NSO has been on the Entity List since 2021. Despite the controversy swirling around the firm, its unprecedented technology has long attracted the attention of investors. Pegasus can hack into users’ phones remotely, activating the camera and microphone without a user knowing, as well as intercept all communications, including over encrypted apps like Signal.

Last July, the American defense firm L3Harris decided not to pursue a bid for NSO after initial explorations led to a backlash from the Biden administration

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Tags: Pegasus spyware

Apr 12 2023


Category: Hacking,Smart Phone,SpywareDISC @ 8:58 am

Security researchers have uncovered fresh malware with hacking capabilities comparable to those of Pegasus, which was developed by NSO Group. The software, which is sold by an Israeli firm named QuaDream, has previously been used by customers to target journalists, political opposition leaders, and an employee of an NGO. The company that makes and sells the spyware is called QuaDream.

The malware was spread to the victims’ phones when the operators of the spyware, who are thought to be government customers, sent them an invitation to an iCloud calendar. The cyberattacks took place between the years 2019 and 2021, and the term “Reign” is given to the hacking program that was used.

A phone that has been infected with Reign can, similar to a phone that has been infected with Pegasus, record conversations that are taking place near the phone, read messages that are stored on encrypted apps, listen to phone conversations, track the location of a user, and generate two-factor authentication codes on an iPhone in order to break into a user’s iCloud account.

Apple, which has been marketing its security measures as being among the finest in the world, has taken yet another hit as a result of the recent disclosures. It would seem that Reign poses an unprecedented and significant danger to the security of the company’s mobile phones.

The spyware that was built by QuaDream attacks iPhones by having the operators of the malware, who are believed to be government customers, issue an invitation to an iCloud calendar to the mobile users of the iPhones. Since the calendar invites were issued for events that had been recorded in the past, the targets of the hacking were not made aware of them because they were sent for activities that had already occurred.

Since users of the mobile phone are not required to click on any malicious link or do any action in order to get infected, these kind of attacks are referred to as “zero-click” attacks.

When a device is infected with spyware, it is able to record conversations that are taking place nearby by taking control of the recorder on the device, reading messages sent via encrypted applications, listening in on phone calls, and monitoring the position of the user.

The malware may also produce two-factor authentication tokens on an iPhone in order to enter a user’s iCloud account. This enables the spyware operator to exfiltrate data straight from the user’s iCloud, which is a significant advantage. In contrast to NSO Group, QuaDream maintains a modest profile among the general population. The firm does not have a website and does not provide any additional contact information on its page. The email address of Israeli attorney Vibeke Dank was included on the QuaDream business registration form; however, she did not respond to a letter asking for her opinion.

Citizen Lab did not name the individuals who were discovered to have been targeted by clients while they were using Reign. However, the organization did say that more than five victims were located in North America, Central Asia, south-east Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. These victims were described as journalists, political opposition figures, and an employee of an NGO. In addition, Citizen Lab said that it was able to identify operator sites for the malware in the countries of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ghana, Israel, Mexico, Romania, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

In a security report that was published in December 2022 by Meta, the corporation that owns Facebook, the name of the firm was mentioned briefly. The report defined QuaDream as being an Israeli-based startup that was created by former NSO personnel.

At the time, Meta stated that it had removed 250 accounts on Facebook and Instagram that were linked to QuaDream. The company believed that the accounts were being used to test the capabilities of the spyware maker using fake accounts. These capabilities included exfiltrating data such as text messages, images, video files, and audio files.

The discovery of Reign underscores the continuous spread of very powerful hacking tools, even as NSO Group, the developer of one of the world’s most sophisticated cyberweapons, has received intensive investigation and been banned by the Biden administration, likely limiting its access to new clients. NSO Group is the maker of one of the most advanced cyberweapons in the world.

Global Spyware Scandal: Exposing Pegasus, Season 1

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Tags: Pegasus spyware, Quadream

Aug 02 2022

Pegasus is listening

Category: SpywareDISC @ 1:55 pm
Pegasus is listening: Q&A with Paul Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba

Pegasus is listening: Q&A with Paul Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba

You may not recognize the name Carine Kanimba, but you have probably heard of her dad: Paul Rusesabagina. He was the manager of Hôtel des Milles Collines and rather famously decided to shelter some 1,200 mostly Tutsi Rwandans in his hotel during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Don Cheadle played him in the movie Hotel Rwanda.

After, Rusesabagina became a superstar ambassador of human rights. He wrote an autobiography about his work during the genocide; President George W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom; and he went on the speakers’ circuit not just talking about 1994 – but criticizing the current government of President Paul Kagame for trampling on human rights.

In August 2020, Rusesabagina boarded a private jet for what he thought would be a trip to Burundi, but instead he was rendered to Rwanda. He’s since been sentenced to 25-years in prison.

Carine Kanimba was on Capitol Hill last week to talk not just about her dad (who adopted sisters Carine and Anaïse shortly after the genocide), but also her recent discovery that she’s been targeted by a commercial spyware program called Pegasus. And she believes the Rwandan government was behind it.

Pegasus spyware is the brainchild of an Israeli company called NSO Group and it has been found on the phones of so many activists around the world it has become a kind of cautionary tale about the commercial spyware industry. It has been linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, discovered on the phones of Mexican opposition leadersCatalonian politicians, and journalists and lawyers around the world. (In a statement, NSO Group told Click Here that it “thoroughly investigates any claim for illegal use of its technology by customers, and terminates contracts when illegal use is found.”)

The Click Here podcast sat down with Kanimba shortly after her Congressional testimony to talk to her about her role as a human rights advocate, what it is like finding oneself on the receiving end of a spyware campaign, and why she is confident she will win her father’s release. The interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.

CLICK HERE: We wanted to start by saying we’re very sorry about what you’re going through with your father…

For complete interview – Pegasus is listening: Q&A with Paul Rusesabagina’s daughter Carine Kanimba

Pegasus: How a Spy in Your Pocket Threatens the End of Privacy, Dignity, and Democracy

Tags: A Privacy Killer, NSO’s Pegasus, Pegasus, Pegasus spyware

Jul 11 2022

US Gov’t Flip-Flops on NSO Group Sale to L3Harris

Category: Cyber Spy,SpywareDISC @ 2:26 pm

US Gov’t Flip-Flops on NSO Group Sale to L3Harris

by Richi Jennings on July 11, 2022

NSO Group, notorious makers of the notorious Pegasus spyware, has been in acquisition talks with a huge U.S. government defense contractor you’ve never heard of: L3Harris Technologies, Inc. Doesn’t that give you a warm, tingly feeling inside?

Pictured is Christopher E. “Call Me Chris” Kubasik, L3Harris’s chairman and CEO. He’s no doubt disappointed that the White House put the kibosh on the deal—especially as other bits of the government gave tacit approval (or so we’re told).

But is everything quite as it seems? In today’s SB Blogwatch, we pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: WINBOOT.AVI


What’s the craic? Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman and Susan C. Beachy report—“Defense Firm Said U.S. Spies Backed Its Bid for Pegasus Spyware Maker”:

“L3Harris and NSO declined to comment”
A team of executives from an American military contractor quietly … in recent months [attempted] a bold but risky plan: purchasing NSO Group, the cyber hacking firm that is as notorious as it is technologically accomplished. … They started with the uncomfortable fact that the United States government had put NSO on a blacklist just months earlier [because it] had acted “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States,” the Biden administration said.

But five people familiar with the negotiations said that the L3Harris team had brought with them a surprising message: … American intelligence officials, they said, quietly supported its plans to purchase NSO, whose technology over the years has been of intense interest to … the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. [But news of the] talks to purchase NSO seemed to blindside White House officials, [who] said they were outraged … and that any attempt by American defense firms to purchase [NSO Group] would be met by serious resistance.

While not a household defense industry name … L3Harris earns billions each year from American government contracts. … The company once produced a surveillance system called Stingray.

L3Harris and NSO declined to comment. … A spokeswoman for Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, declined to comment. … The Commerce Department declined to give specifics about any discussions.

One arm of the government doesn’t know what another is doing? Say it ain’t so! Stephanie Kirchgaessner says it’s so—“US defence firm ends talks to buy NSO”:

“Definitive pushback”
A person familiar with the talks said L3 Harris had vetted any potential deal for NSO’s technology with its customers in the US government and had received some signals of support from the American intelligence community. [But,] sources said, L3Harris had been caught off guard when a senior White House official expressed strong reservations about any potential deal.

Once L3Harris understood the level of “definitive pushback”, a person familiar with the talks said, “there was a view … that there was no way L3 was moving forward with this. … If the government is not aligned, there is no way for L3 to be aligned,” the person said.

What’s the big problem? Duncan Riley drives the point home:

“Could have resulted in the blacklisting being lifted”
A deal for all or part of NSO would not be as simple as the two companies agreeing to terms, requiring permission from both the U.S. and Israeli governments. … NSO Group, with its Pegasus spyware, has been one of the most controversial cybersecurity companies of recent times. Pegasus is a form of software that uses zero-day or unpatched exploits to infect mobile devices.

The deal falling apart may also leave NSO in a difficult situation: With the blacklisting in place, the company is limited in whom it can sell Pegasus to and what technology it can purchase. In contrast, an acquisition by an American company could have resulted in the blacklisting being lifted.

Wait, what? John Scott-Railton holds his horses:

“NSO spent years pretending they changed”
WHOA: Deal … tanked.

[It] helps explain recent signs of desperation from the spyware company. [An] American defense contractor acquiring a demonstrably-uncontrollable purveyor of insecurity would be … atrocious for human rights [and] bad for … counterintelligence.

This is not a company that prioritizes America’s national security. And it doesn’t play well with our tech sector. … NSO spent years pretending they changed … while using all available tricks to hide the fact that they kept doing … risky biz and dictator deals.

ELI5? Look on u/Ozymandias606’s words, ye mighty, and despair:

“Biden visits Israel tomorrow”
Pegasus is a hacking tool [that] can turn anyone’s phone into a tracking and recording device without the owner clicking a link. [It] has been sold to governments over the past several years [who] used Pegasus to spy on journalists and activists.

The Commerce Department added Pegasus’ creator to a blacklist that has been slowly choking the company. … A US defense contractor later offered to buy Pegasus – and claims they had explicit permission from US intelligence agencies to do so under a number of conditions, [which] include turning over the software’s source code to the “Five Eyes” cybersecurity alliance.

So, a handful of Western nations … were trying to control access to a cyber weapon that appears to take control of any phone in the world. … Biden visits Israel tomorrow – his first visit to the country.

Are you hinting what I think you’re hinting? This Anonymous Coward rents the curtain (but is behind on the payments): [You’re fired—Ed.]

Unfortunately, many Americans are still in denial about what the US govt routinely do. … This is simply Tiktok 2.0 (or Alstrom 3.0).

Anyone who looked at history will recognise the same pattern had happened many times already, including Alstrom in France. US will buy out any company, by force or by trickery, that took lead in any area the US deemed important.

Still, we have Lockdown Mode now. Nothing to worry about, right? Wrong, says u/NidoKangJr:

Lockdown mode is nothing. It can’t work. If the software is compromised, letting software be the security can’t work. Every cell phone really needs to have 3 mechanical switches and a removable battery. 1 switch for power, 1 for the mic and 1 for the camera.

What next? The Combat Desert Penguin—@wolverine_salty—ponders alternative buyers:

Is Thiel interested?

Meanwhile, with a similarly snarky stance, here’s kmoser:

So when is Elon Musk going to make them an offer?

Report: L3Harris Drops Plans to Buy Israel-Based Hacking Tool Maker NSO -  GovCon Wire

Pegasus Spyware – ‘A Privacy Killer’ 

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Tags: L3Harris, NSO Group, Pegasus spyware

Jun 23 2022

NSO Group told lawmakers that Pegasus spyware was used by at least 5 European countries

Category: Cyber Spy,SpywareDISC @ 8:23 am

The Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group revealed that its Pegasus spyware was used by at least five European countries.

The controversial Israeli surveillance vendor NSO Group told the European Union lawmakers that its Pegasus spyware was used by at least five countries in the region.

NSO Group’s General Counsel Chaim Gelfand admitted that the company had “made mistakes,” but that after the abuses of its software made the headlines it has canceled several contracts.

“We’re trying to do the right thing and that’s more than other companies working in the industry,” Gelfand told members of the PEGA committee. “Every customer we sell to, we do due diligence on in advance in order to assess the rule of law in that country. But working on publicly available information is never going to be enough.”

In April, the Parliament set up a new inquiry committee investigating the use of Pegaus spyware and equivalent surveillance software used to spy of phones belonging to politicians, diplomats, and civil society members. The spyware was used to target several European leaders, including Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and Spanish political groups, Hungary, and Poland.

NSO Group

In February, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) authority called for a ban on the development and the use of surveillance software like the Pegasus spyware in the EU.

The abuse of this kind of solution poses a serious threat to fundamental rights, particularly on the rights to privacy and data protection. 

“It comes from the EDPS’ conviction that the use of Pegasus might lead to an unprecedented level of intrusiveness, which threatens the essence of the right to privacy, as the spyware is able to interfere with the most intimate aspects of our daily lives.” states the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). 

“Pegasus constitutes a paradigm shift in terms of access to private communications and devices, which is able to affect the very essence of our fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy.”

Privacy advocated and cybersecurity experts demonstrated the use of the Pegasus in surveillance campaigns worldwide targeting journalists, political figures, dissidents, and activists.

The bad news is that the business of digital surveillance is growing in scaring and uncontrolled way. Recently, experts spotted other surveillance malware infecting systems worldwide, such as the HERMIT spyware that was linked to an Italian firm.

If you want to read more info on the Pegasus spyware give a look at a report investigating Pegasus spyware impacts on human rights has been launched by the Council of Europe on the occasion of the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly.

The report was prepared by the Information Society Department with contributions from Tamar Kaldani the former Personal Data Protection Inspector and the State Inspector of Georgia, currently serving as the first Vice-chair of the Consultative Committee of Convention 108 and Zeev Prokopets – an Israeli executive, product designer, software developer and entrepreneur.

“An investigation report released by a global consortium26 revealed that 200 journalists worldwide had been targeted using Pegasus spyware. The Office of the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression also noted the number of victims of attempted spying through Pegasus, including Mexican journalists, human rights defenders and opposition leaders.27 “The numbers vividly show the abuse is widespread, placing journalists’ lives, those of their families and associates in danger, undermining freedom of the press and shutting down critical media,” – said Secretary-general of Amnesty International.” concludes the report. “The right to freedom of expression and information, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Convention, constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and the development of every individual.”

And it’s like, what … 12, 13,000 total targets a year max, exec says

Pegasus Spyware – ‘A Privacy Killer’ 

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Tags: A Privacy Killer, NSO Group, Pegasus spyware

Apr 19 2022

NSO Group Pegasus spyware leverages new zero-click iPhone exploit in recent attacks

Category: Cyber Spy,SpywareDISC @ 8:23 am

Researchers reported that threat actors leveraged a new zero-click iMessage exploit to install NSO Group Pegasus on iPhones belonging to Catalans.

Researchers from Citizen Lab have published a report detailing the use of a new zero-click iMessage exploit, dubbed HOMAGE, to install the NSO Group Pegasus spyware on iPhones belonging to Catalan politicians, journalists, academics, and activists.

The previously undocumented zero-click iMessage exploit HOMAGE works in attacks against iOS versions before 13.2.

The experts speculate the HOMAGE exploit was used since the last months of 2019, and involved an iMessage zero-click component that launched a WebKit instance in the com.apple.mediastream.mstreamd process, following a com.apple.private.alloy.photostream lookup for a Pegasus email address. 

The experts at the Citizen Lab, in collaboration with Catalan civil society groups, have identified at least 65 individuals targeted or infected with spyware. 63 of them were targeted or infected with the Pegasus spyware, and four others with the spyware developed by another surveillance firm named Candiru. The researchers reported that at least two of them were targeted or infected with both surveillance software.

Victims included Members of the European Parliament, Catalan Presidents, legislators, jurists, and members of civil society organisations, the threat actors also targeted family members.

The researchers also noticed that the content used in the bait SMS messages suggests access to targets personal information, including the Spanish governmental ID numbers.

“With the targets’ consent, we obtained forensic artefacts from their devices that we examined for evidence of Pegasus infections. Our forensic analysis enables us to conclude with high confidence that, of the 63 people targeted with Pegasus, at least 51 individuals were infected.” reads the report published by Citizen Lab.

“We are not aware of any zero-day, zero-click exploits deployed against Catalan targets following iOS 13.1.3 and before iOS 13.5.1.”

This isn’t the first time that Catalans were targeted by the NSO Group Pegasus Spyware, Citizen Lab has previously reported “possible cases of domestic political espionage” after detecting infections with the popular surveillance software. Multiple Catalans were targeted with Pegasus through the 2019 WhatsApp attack, at the time the spyware leveraged exploits for the 


The Citizen Lab doesn’t explicitly attribute the attacks to a specific threat actor, but the nature of the targets suggests a link with Spanish authorities. All the targets were of interest to the Spanish government and experts pointed out that the specific timing of the targeting matches events of specific interest to the Spanish government.

“While we do not currently attribute this operation to specific governmental entities, circumstantial evidence suggests a strong nexus with the government of Spain, including the nature of the victims and targets, the timing, and the fact that Spain is reported to be a government client of NSO Group.” concludes the report.

NSO Group pegasus spyware

Pegasus Spyware – ‘A Privacy Killer’ 

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Tags: NSO Group, Pegasus spyware

Feb 17 2022

European Data Protection Supervisor call for bans on surveillance spyware like Pegasus

Category: Cyber Spy,SpywareDISC @ 2:55 pm

The European Data Protection Supervisor authority called for a ban on the development and the use of Pegasus-like commercial spyware.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) authority this week called for a ban on the development and the use of surveillance software like the Pegasus spyware in the EU.

Pegasus is a surveillance malware developed by the Israeli surveillance NSO Group that could infect both iPhones and Android devices, it is sold exclusively to the governments and law enforcement agencies.

The abuse of this kind of solution poses a serious threat to fundamental rights, particularly on the rights to privacy and data protection. 

“It comes from the EDPS’ conviction that the use of Pegasus might lead to an unprecedented level of intrusiveness, which threatens the essence of the right to privacy, as the spyware is able to interfere with the most intimate aspects of our daily lives.” states the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). 

“Pegasus constitutes a paradigm shift in terms of access to private communications and devices, which is able to affect the very essence of our fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy.”

Privacy advocated and cybersecurity experts demonstrated the use of the Pegasus in surveillance campaigns worldwide targeting journalists, political figures, dissidents, and activists.

Pegasus was used by governments with dubious human rights records and histories of abusive behaviour by their state security services.

The surveillance software allows to completely take over the target device and spy on the victims. Developers of surveillance solutions leverage zero-click zero-day exploits to silently compromise the devices without any user interaction. Pegasus is known to have used KISMET and FORCEDENTRY exploits to infect the devices of the victims.

NSO Group has repeatedly claimed that its software is sold exclusively to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to fight crime and terrorism, in so-called “life-saving mission.”

According to a series of disclosures by the business publication Calcalist in recent weeks, dozens of citizens in the country were targeted by Israel Police with the NSO Group’s spyware to gather intelligence without a search warrant authorizing the surveillance.

“National security cannot be used as an excuse to an extensive use of such technologies nor as an argument against the involvement of the European Union.” continues EDPS.

EDPS urges tight control over the use of surveillance and hacking tools to prevent and disincentive unlawful use.

Finnish diplomats’ devices infected with Pegasus spyware

El Salvador journalists hacked with NSO’s Pegasus spyware

Pegasus: Google reveals how the sophisticated spyware hacked into iPhones without user’s knowledge

The Pegasus project: key takeaways for the corporate world

Pegasus Spyware – ‘A Privacy Killer’

Tags: Pegasus spyware, Spyware, The European Data Protection Supervisor authority

Jan 29 2022

The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon

Category: Cyberweapon,SpywareDISC @ 11:49 am

A Times investigation reveals how Israel reaped diplomatic gains around the world from NSO’s Pegasus spyware — a tool America itself purchased but is now trying to ban.

In June 2019, three Israeli computer engineers arrived at a New Jersey building used by the F.B.I. They unpacked dozens of computer servers, arranging them on tall racks in an isolated room. As they set up the equipment, the engineers made a series of calls to their bosses in Herzliya, a Tel Aviv suburb, at the headquarters for NSO Group, the world’s most notorious maker of spyware. Then, with their equipment in place, they began testing.

The F.B.I. had bought a version of Pegasus, NSO’s premier spying tool. For nearly a decade, the Israeli firm had been selling its surveillance software on a subscription basis to law-enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, promising that it could do what no one else — not a private company, not even a state intelligence service — could do: consistently and reliably crack the encrypted communications of any iPhone or Android smartphone.

Since NSO had introduced Pegasus to the global market in 2011, it had helped Mexican authorities capture Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo. European investigators have quietly used Pegasus to thwart terrorist plots, fight organized crime and, in one case, take down a global child-abuse ring, identifying dozens of suspects in more than 40 countries. In a broader sense, NSO’s products seemed to solve one of the biggest problems facing law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in the 21st century: that criminals and terrorists had better technology for encrypting their communications than investigators had to decrypt them. The criminal world had gone dark even as it was increasingly going global.

But by the time the company’s engineers walked through the door of the New Jersey facility in 2019, the many abuses of Pegasus had also been well documented. Mexico deployed the software not just against gangsters but also against journalists and political dissidents. The United Arab Emirates used the software to hack the phone of a civil rights activist whom the government threw in jail. Saudi Arabia used it against women’s rights activists and, according to a lawsuit filed by a Saudi dissident, to spy on communications with Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, whom Saudi operatives killed and dismembered in Istanbul in 2018.

The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon

The World’s Most Terrifying Spyware

Pegasus Spyware – ‘A Privacy Killer’

Finland says it found NSO’s Pegasus spyware on diplomats’ phones

Tags: cyberweapons, diplomats’ phones, Finland, NSO, NSO Group, Pegasus spyware, Pegasus Spyware - 'A Privacy Killer'

Jan 28 2022

Finnish diplomats’ devices infected with Pegasus spyware

Category: Cyber Spy,SpywareDISC @ 10:25 am

Finland Ministry for Foreign Affairs revealed that devices of Finnish diplomats have been infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs revealed that the devices of some Finnish diplomats have been compromised with the infamous NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

The diplomats were targeted with the popular surveillance software as part of a cyber-espionage campaign.

“Finnish diplomats have been targets of cyber espionage by means of the Pegasus spyware, developed by NSO Group Technologies, which has received wide publicity. The highly sophisticated malware has infected users’ Apple or Android telephones without their noticing and without any action from the user’s part. Through the spyware, the perpetrators may have been able to harvest data from the device and exploit its features.” reads a statement published by the Ministry.

According to the statement, threat actors have stolen data from the infected devices belonging to employees working in Finnish missions abroad. The attacks were spotted following an investigation that started in the autumn of 2021, anyway, according to the government experts the campaign is no longer active.

The announcement pointed out that the data transmitted or stored on diplomats’ devices are either public or classified at the lowest level of classified information (level 4).

Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs warns that even if the information is not directly classified, the information itself and its source may be subject to diplomatic confidentiality.

“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is continually monitoring events and activities in its operating environment and assessing related risks. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs monitors its services and strives to prevent harmful activities.  The preparation of and decisions on foreign and security policy, in particular, are matters that attract much interest, which may also manifest itself as unlawful intelligence.” concludes the Ministry. “The Ministry responds to the risk by various means, but complete protection against unlawful intelligence is impossible.”

In December, Apple warned that the mobile devices of at least nine US Department of State employees were compromised with NSO Group ‘s Pegasus spyware.

Tags: Finnish diplomats, Pegasus spyware

Dec 20 2021

Pegasus: Google reveals how the sophisticated spyware hacked into iPhones without user’s knowledge

  • Pegasus spyware was allegedly used by governments to spy upon prominent journalists, politicians and activists.
  • A Google blog has revealed how the sophisticated software was used to attack iPhone users.
  • The software used a vulnerability in iMessages to hack into iPhones without the user’s knowledge.

The Pegasus spyware, developed by Israel’s NSO group, made headlines for being used by governments and regimes across the world including India to spy on journalists, activists, opposition leaders, ministers, lawyers and others. The spyware is accused of hacking into the phones of at least 180 journalists around the world, of which 40 are notable Indian personalities.

Now, a Google blog from the Project Zero team called the attacks technically sophisticated exploits and assessed the software to have capabilities rivalling spywares previously thought to be accessible to only a handful of nations.

The company has also faced multiple lawsuits including one in India where the Supreme Court (SC) set up a three-member panel headed by former SC judge RV Raveendran to probe whether the software was used by the government to spy on journalists and other dissidents.

Apart from India, Apple has also sued the Israeli firm after having patched its security exploit. The company was also banned in the United States after the details of the spyware were revealed. Let’s take a look at how this advanced snooping technology discretely worked on iPhones.

How Pegasus hacked iPhones

According to the Project Zero blog, a sample of the ForcedEntry exploit was worked upon by the team and Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture (SEAR) group. Pegasus attacks on iPhones were possible due to the ForcedEntry exploit.

Best iPhone in 2021: Which model is right for you? | ZDNet

Pegasus is a spyware (Trojan/Script) that can be installed remotely on devices running on Apple ‘ s iOS & Google ‘ s Android operating systems. It is developed and marketed by the Israeli technology firm NSO Group. NSO Group sells Pegasus to ” vetted governments ” for ” lawful interception ” , which is understood to mean combating terrorism and organized crime, as the firm claims, but suspicions exist that it is availed for other purposes. Pegasus is a modular malware that can initiate total surveillance on the targeted device, as per a report by digital security company Kaspersky. It installs the necessary modules to read the user’s messages and mail, listen to calls, send back the browser history and more, which basically means taking control of nearly all aspects of your digital life. It can even listen in to encrypted audio and text files on your device that makes all the data on your device up for grabs.

Tags: A Privacy Killer, hacked iphone, NSO Group, Pegasus spyware

Sep 23 2021

How to protect the corporate network from spyware

Category: Cyber Spy,SpywareDISC @ 1:55 pm

There are a range of security policies for dealing with users’ smartphones, from the most restrictive approach – no smartphone access allowed – to an open approach that allows personal phones to connect to the internal corporate network. We suggest that the right solution is somewhere in between.

You may have read about the Pegasus spyware in the news; the NSO Group’s software exploits flaws in iOS (iPhones) to gain access to data on an unsuspecting target’s phone. NSO sells Pegasus to governments, ostensibly to track criminals, but it’s often used by repressive regimes to spy on their opponents, political figures, and activists.

In the past, Pegasus infections were primarily achieved by sending a link to the victim’s phone; when the target clicked on it, they would trigger an exploit that would allow attackers to gain root access to the phone. Once the spyware obtains root access, it can read messages on apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Gmail and others. A sophisticated command and control network can report back to the operator and control the phone as well.

Reducing the risk

What Is Pegasus? All About the Infamous Software (Infographic)

anti-spyware A Complete Guide

How To Protect Yourself From Adware Or Spyware

Tags: anti-spyware, Pegasus spyware, Spyware and Adware

Aug 02 2021

Female journalists and activists say they had their private photos shared on social media by governments seeking to intimidate and silence them.

Category: Cyber Spy,SpywareDISC @ 10:27 am
Image: Alya Alhwait, Alaa Al-Siddiq, Ghada Oueiss, Loujain Al-Hathloul

Female journalists and activists say they had their private photos shared on social media by governments seeking to intimidate and silence them.

‘I will not be silenced’: Women targeted in hack-and-leak attacks speak out about spyware

Ghada Oueiss, a Lebanese broadcast journalist at Al-Jazeera, was eating dinner at home with her husband last June when she received a message from a colleague telling her to check Twitter. Oueiss opened up the account and was horrified: A private photo taken when she was wearing a bikini in a jacuzzi was being circulated by a network of accounts, accompanied by false claims that the photos were taken at her boss’s house.

Over the next few days she was barraged with thousands of tweets and direct messages attacking her credibility as a journalist, describing her as a prostitute or telling her she was ugly and old. Many of the messages came from accounts that appeared to support Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, known as MBS, including some verified accounts belonging to government officials.

“I immediately knew that my phone had been hacked,” said Oueiss, who believes she was targeted in an effort to silence her critical reporting on the Saudi regime. “Those photos were not published anywhere. They were only on my phone.”

“I am used to being harassed online. But this was different,” she added. “It was as if someone had entered my home, my bedroom, my bathroom. I felt so unsafe and traumatized.”

Source: Female journalists and activists say they had their private photos shared on social media by governments seeking to intimidate and silence them.

You Are Being Targeted – How to Keep Yourself Safe in a Connected World! (Survival and Security Series Book 1) by [Harvey Toogood]


Tags: journalists targeted, Pegasus spyware, private photos shared on social media by governments, Spyware

Jul 31 2021

WhatsApp chief says government officials, US allies targeted by Pegasus spyware

Category: SpywareDISC @ 1:52 pm
What is Pegasus spyware and how does it hack phones? | Surveillance | The  Guardian

Source: The officials were allegedly targeted in attacks dating back to 2019.

Speaking to The Guardian, WhatsApp’s chief executive, Will Cathcart, said there are “parallels” between the 2019 attacks and a recent data leak allegedly implicating NSO Group clients in widespread cybersurveillance.

Israeli vendor NSO Group has experienced bad press in recent weeks due to a damning report issued by Forbidden Stories, Amnesty International, and various media outlets worldwide.

Forbidden Stories claimed that a leaked list of over 50,000 phone numbers allegedly revealed individuals either “of interest” or selected for targeting by clients. According to the non-profit’s Pegasus project, while an appearance on the list does not mean that someone was targeted or compromised by Pegasus, infection by the firm’s spyware was confirmed in “dozens” of cases. 

Pegasus spyware has capabilities including remote access, both email and browser monitoring, location checks, information exfiltration, call recording, and the extraction of conversations across messaging applications including WhatsApp and Facebook. 

NSO Group markets its products for use in criminal and terrorism-related investigations.

Alongside the alleged targeting of government officials, journalists, diplomats, political dissidents, lawyers, and activists were reportedly included in the leak. 

Tags: Pegasus spyware