EU Officials Targeted With NSO Spyware…. Or Not….

The title of this story doesn’t seem to make sense. But it will. Trust me. Let’s start with this Reuters story that says this:

Senior officials at the European Commission were targeted last year with spy software designed by an Israeli surveillance firm, according to two EU officials and documentation reviewed by Reuters.

Among them was Didier Reynders, a senior Belgian statesman who has served as the European Justice Commissioner since 2019, according to one of the documents. At least four other commission staffers were also targeted, according to the document and another person familiar with the matter. The two EU officials confirmed that staffers at the commission had been targeted but did not provide details.

The commission became aware of the targeting following messages issued by Apple to thousands of iPhone owners in November telling them they were “targeted by state-sponsored attackers,” the two EU officials said. It was the first time Apple had sent a mass alert to users that they were in government hackers’ crosshairs.

The warnings triggered immediate concern at the commission, the two officials said. In a Nov. 26 email reviewed by Reuters, a senior tech staffer sent a message to colleagues with background about Israeli hacking tools and a request to be on the lookout for additional warnings from Apple.

That’s very bad. And of course, the spyware that we’re talking about was designed by the NSO Group…. Or was it?

Security researchers have said the recipients of the warnings were targeted between February and September 2021 using ForcedEntry, an advanced piece of software that was used by Israeli cyber surveillance vendor NSO Group to help foreign spy agencies remotely and invisibly take control of iPhones. A smaller Israeli spyware vendor named QuaDream also sold a nearly identical tool to government clients, Reuters previously reported.

So it could be either of these companies. I would be forcing the NSO Group to prove without a shadow of a doubt that it wasn’t them. Because given their previous track record, it’s going to be hard to take their word for it at this point. Still, it is a very disturbing story that shows that this spyware, regardless of who is behind it, has been used more widely than previously thought.

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