Citizen Lab cybersecurity researchers have warned UK officials at 10 Downing Street and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that their devices are being targeted by spyware.
The report claims that in 2020 and 2021, British officials, most likely working overseas in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had their devices infected with Pegasus spyware, a known malware strain developed and sold by NSO Group.
NSO Group is a notorious Israeli tech company that sells surveillance tools to governments around the world. It has often been criticized due to Pegasus being used against politicians, journalists, and civil rights activists. In one case, it was also allegedly used by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to hack into his ex-wife’s phone. He denied the allegations.
NSO Group denies all allegations
Some Western countries have banned the company from their jurisdictions and completely banned the use of their tools.
As for these specific allegations, NSO Group has denied them all, saying such an attack “could not have happened”.
“The information raised regarding these claims is, again, untrue and cannot be linked to NSO products for technological and contractual reasons,” the NSO Group spokesperson said.
“NSO continues to be targeted by a number of politically motivated advocacy organizations, such as Citizens Labs and Amnesty, for producing inaccurate and unsubstantiated reports based on vague and incomplete information.
“We have repeatedly cooperated with government investigations, where credible allegations warrant it.”
Citizen Lab came across these findings while investigating the full spying case of Catalan politicians. Sixty-five officials from the northern Spanish region were reportedly spied on, including members of the European Parliament, Catalan presidents, lawmakers, lawyers and members of civil society organisations.
The researchers tested “a number of official phones”, including the Prime Minister’s, but we do not know which terminals were infected and whether data was stolen.