According to a recent revelation from Reuters, senior officials in the European Union were reportedly targeted with NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus spying tool. The news agency disclosed that at least five people, including European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, have been singled out, citing documents and two anonymous EU officials. However, it’s unclear who deployed commercial spyware against them or what information was gained from the attacks.
In a statement to Reuters, NSO Group stated it was not involved in the hacking attempts and that the targeting “could not have happened with NSO’s tools.” According to reports, the targeting was discovered after Apple alerted victims of state-sponsored assaults in November as part of its attempts to prevent the Israeli espionage business from targeting its clients.
In the same month, Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, seeking a court order prohibiting the corporation from developing and launching spyware attacks using its goods and services. The iPhone maker called NSO Group “notorious hackers — amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.”
Pegasus gives its government and law enforcement customers total access to a target’s device, including their personal information, images, messages, and specific location, using sophisticated “zero-click” attacks like FORCEDENTRY. The US government has added NSO Group to its trade blocklist in response to the widespread use of Pegasus to methodically spy on civil society in recent years, forcing Israel to limit the number of nations to which Israeli security businesses may sell offensive hacking and surveillance technologies.
The European Data Protection Supervisor advocated for a ban in the area in February 2022 on creating and using Pegasus-like commercial spyware, citing the technology’s “unprecedented level of intrusiveness” that might jeopardize users’ rights to privacy. Despite efforts to regulate the use of spyware, a forensic investigation made available last week by Front Line Defenders revealed that the iPhone of Suhair Jaradat, a Jordanian journalist and human rights defender, was hacked with the help of Pegasus through a malicious WhatsApp message in December 2021. This incident happened weeks after Apple filed a lawsuit.
“The fact that the targeting we uncovered happened after the widespread publicity around Apple’s lawsuit and notifications to victims is especially remarkable,” said the report. “A firm that truly respected such concerns would have at least paused operations for government clients, like Jordan, that have a widely publicized track record of human rights concerns and had enacted emergency powers giving authorities widespread latitude to infringe on civil liberties.”