EU officials' iPhones were targets of NSO Group's spyware

in iPhone
Spyware software created by NSO Group has allegedly been used to try and hack iPhones and devices used by senior officials at the European Commission, with unknown attackers attempting in 2021 to take control of EU officials' smartphones.

NSO Group is known for producing software tools used for surveillance, typically by introducing malware to a device. While it is best known for the Pegasus hacking tool, which was used by governments around the world and capable of infiltrating an iPhone, it seems other tools from the firm are being used for similar purposes.

According to two EU officials and documents seen by Reuters, a number of senior officials at the European Commission became targets of NSO's tools. The list includes Didier Reynders, who has served as European Justice Commissioner since 2019, as well as at least four commission staff members.

After Apple started to warn thousands of iPhone owners that they were targeted by "state-sponsored attackers," officials in the commission became concerned that there could be a problem. A tech staffer warned colleagues within the commission to be vigilant on November 26, since the commission's employees were considered "a potential target."

So far, it is unclear whether attackers succeeded in gaining access to the iPhones of targets, nor what they would've acquired had they been successful. Neither an EC spokesperson nor Apple commented on the matter.

Though press at the time discussed Pegasus, it appears that another tool by NSO was being used. Security researchers say attempts were made between February and September 2021, using a tool titled ForcedEntry.

NSO Group insisted in a statement that it wasn't responsible for any of the hacking attempts and that they "could not have happened with NSO's tools." It did support an investigation into the targeting of officials, as well as calling for global rules concerning the spyware industry itself.

The discovery of the misuse of NSO Group's tools certainly doesn't help the company's profile following the Pegasus scandal, when it was found the tool was used by governments to spy on journalists, activists, and government opponents, instead of for fighting crime.

The adoption of Pegasus and other tools by government agencies led to lawmakers in the U.S. asking Apple and the FBI about the latter's acquisition of NSO Group tools in March.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament will be launching a committee on April 19 to investigate the use of surveillance software in European member states.

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  • Reply 1 of 8
    p-dogp-dog Posts: 120member
    EU officials should get used to more of the same if they force Apple to allow sideloading and break open the App Store. It seems EU regulators have let Swedish music streamers and companies from Redmond and Cary, NC whisper into their ears too much.
  • Reply 2 of 8
    pwrmacpwrmac Posts: 47member
    Good lesson for the EU regulators / burocrats
  • Reply 3 of 8
    mwhitemwhite Posts: 287member
    You get what you deserve...

  • Reply 4 of 8
    JaiOh81JaiOh81 Posts: 54member
    They thought they were gonna be the ones doing the spying haha 
  • Reply 5 of 8
    mwhite said:
    You get what you deserve...

    Which implies more fines for offering a platform that is basically compromised while being marketed as “safe”
  • Reply 6 of 8
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    Not sure that anyone is surprised by this.  That the attacks were successful would be news,
  • Reply 7 of 8
    KTRKTR Posts: 266member
    I’m sure now you they are confuse

  • Reply 8 of 8
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 982member
    Isn't NSO Group supposed to be one of the good guys?

    Fact: There are no "good guys". 
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