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NSO Group’s Pegasus used to hack phones of US State Department officials: Report

These hacks are the first notable use of NSO-made spyware against US persons.

The iPhones of at least nine US State Department employees were hacked by an unknown entity using spyware made by Israeli-based NSO Group, Reuters reported on December 4 citing unnamed sources. The Wall Street Journal later corroborated these findings and reported that the phones of eleven US officials were hacked using the Pegasus spyware. The hacks took place over the last several months and targeted US officials either based in Uganda or focused on matters concerning the country, both reports said. Earlier in July, an international consortium of media organisations revealed that political leaders, journalists, human rights activists, businessmen, military officials, intelligence agency officials, and several others from various countries across the world were targeted for surveillance by NSO-made Pegasus spyware, but there were no confirmed American targets then. How were the hacks uncovered? These hacks appear to have been uncovered after Apple notified the affected users. There were identifiable as US government employees because they associated email addresses ending in state.gov with their Apple IDs, Reuters said. Apple in November sued NSO Group over the surveillance and targeting of Apple users with the Pegasus spyware. “Pegasus can record using a device’s microphone and camera, track the phone’s location data, and collect emails, text messages, browsing history, and a host of other information accessible through the device,” Apple said in its lawsuit. On the same day, Apple also said that it will start notifying users who may have been targeted, in two ways: A Threat Notification will be displayed at the top of the…

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