Israeli company allegedly hacks Pakistani officials’ phones, gets access to WhatsApp

The spyware was owned by a company called NSO Group. 

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Cellphones of dozens of Pakistani officials were targeted by an Israeli malware earlier this year. According to The Guardian, the spyware was owned by a company called NSO Group and it has been used to gain access to WhatsApp messages for ‘state-on-state’ espionage.

Data of Pakistani senior defence and intelligence officials are likely affected by this malware. According to the sources, the malware was discovered while analyzing 1,400 people whose phones were the focus of hacking attempts in a two-week period at the beginning of this year.

The intrusions indicated a potential vulnerability in the software, which allowed the malware to get access to messages and data on phones of the targeted.

”The discovery of the breach in May prompted WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, to file a lawsuit against NSO in October in which it accused the company of “unauthorised access and abuse of its services.”

”The lawsuit claimed intended targets included “attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other senior foreign government officials”, The Guardian reports.

NSO, on the other hand, claims that the malware is only used to target global terrorists, criminals and paedophiles.

“This kind of spyware is marketed as designed for criminal investigations. But the open secret is that it also winds up being used for political surveillance and government-on-government spying,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab.

“Spyware companies are clearly contributing to the proliferation of state-on-state technological espionage. No government seems particularly immune. This is probably further stretching the patience of governments around the world with this industry,” he continued.

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