Media reports claim NSO Group spyware targets senior EU officials

Abeerah Hashim  - Security Expert
Last updated: November 12, 2023
NSO spyware
  • NSO Group spyware attacks five EU High-ranking officials
  • The spyware Pegasus targets users through the iPhone and other Apple devices.
  • A 38-men committee has been formed to look into existing laws on surveillance.

A Spyware breached the privacy of High-ranking officials in the EU last year. The senior officials affected by the attack are up to five. Among them are a Statesman from Belgium, Didier Reynders, and the European Justice Commissioner for four years. Two other officials in the European Union confirmed the incident but didn’t give further details about it.

The attack occurred between February & September 2021 through a software that the NSO Group created. Many governments used the malware “Pegasus” to spy on their opponents and critics, leading to lawsuits. However, NSO denies that their tools were used in this attack. But an investigation is ongoing to discover what happened. However, IT experts have checked the smartphones involved in the attack but haven’t given any precise results of their findings. 

According to the report, the commission learned of the attack when Apple sent messages to its iPhone users about it. Apple called it a State-sponsored attack, which caused the commission to pay attention. Afterward, a senior staffer in the tech department alerted his colleagues about the situation, warning them to be watchful.

Spyware targets Apple users in the US

According to security researchers, the Pegasus Spyware attacked US citizens who use Apple mobile devices, including iPhones. The spyware breaches the privacy of these users by accessing their emails, messages, photos, calls, etc. It also activates the microphones of the target and records their calls. 

Once the spyware gathers targetted information, it sends them to the threat actor, including the real-live location of the target. Security experts believe that the spyware is similar to those known to target high-ranking government officials in the past. In addition, an ESET adviser, Jake Moore, disclosed that the malware intrudes on people’s lives through their devices. So, spyware is a force not to ignore.

Apart from this latest incident, hackers have also used Pegasus in the past to target US officials. For instance, Pegasus hacked the iPhones of nine State Department Officials in the US.

Also, some claim that the malware also hacked Jeff Bezos’s phone. All these incidents caused the US to blacklist NSO Group. In addition, they sanctioned the NSO Group for being involved in malicious activities on the internet. Moreover, the Department of Commerce in the US disclosed that the Group developed and sold spyware to many foreign governments. Now, even Apple & Facebook have suits against the company.

Moves to investigate illegal surveillance in the EU

According to the reports, the European Parliament is moving to set up a committee to handle these matters. The committee will find out if using spyware to monitor citizens in all states of the European Union is legal.

Many incidents of illegal surveillance with software led to the formation of this committee. For instance, some investigative journalists in Hungary were spied on using spyware. Also, a Canadian cybersecurity watchdog, Citizen Lab, reported that some of Poland’s opposition politicians faced the same issue. Furthermore, according to the watchdog, Israeli spyware hacked their phones to steal personal information. This incident even made the Israeli Defense Ministry limit the countries that can access their cyber tools.

Now the committee will look into the national laws about surveillance. They’ll determine if the NSO spyware Pegasus was used for political surveillance. Meanwhile, reports show that the EU started an investigative move on spyware companies like NSO groups. That might be the reason for the attack.

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About the Author

Abeerah Hashim

Abeerah Hashim

Security Expert

Abeerah is a passionate technology blogger and cybersecurity enthusiast. She yearns to know everything about the latest technology developments. Specifically, she’s crazy about the three C’s; computing, cybersecurity, and communication. When she is not writing, she’s reading about the tech world.

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