Sources close to her said that NSO Group has a license in Israel
The iPhones of at least nine US State Department employees have been compromised by a hacker who used sophisticated spyware developed by Israel-based NSO Group, according to four sources close to the matter.
Two sources said the attacks in recent months had targeted Ugandan officials or had targeted cases related to the east African country.
The hacks represent the most widespread known attack on US officials using NSO Group technology. Reuters was unable to determine who carried out the latest cyber attacks.
NSO Group said in a statement on Thursday that it had no indication that its tools had been used, but it had canceled the accounts involved and said it would conduct an investigation based on the Reuters report.
An NSO spokesperson said, “If our investigation shows that these actions did indeed take place using NSO tools, the said user will be permanently removed and legal action will be taken,” adding that the company “will also cooperate with any relevant government authority and provide the information that we will have.”
The NSO Group has long said that it sells its products only to intelligence clients and government agencies, helps them monitor security threats, and is not directly involved in surveillance operations.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.
A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the hacks, citing instead the Commerce Department’s recent decision to put the Israeli company on an entity list, making it difficult for American companies to deal with them.
He added that the NSO Group and another spyware company “were added to the list on the basis that they developed and provided spyware to foreign governments that used this tool to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businessmen, activists, academics and embassy staff.” Ministry of Commerce last month.
NSO Group’s software is able not only to capture encrypted messages, photos and other confidential information from infected phones, but also turn them into recording devices to monitor surrounding areas, according to product manuals reviewed by Reuters.
Apple’s alert to affected users did not specify the originator of the spyware used.
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