According to media reports from Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, the Pegasus spy software produced by the company NSO has been discovered on the cell phones of several U.S. diplomats. This poses another problem for the already struggling company.
Spyware in use worldwide
The company’s spy software can be installed on smartphones without the user’s intervention and, as recent research has shown, is in use around the world. The criticism of Pegasus has sparked a new debate about spying. NSO has come in for particular criticism since it became known that the software was also sold to numerous states that use it to commit human rights violations. The fact that the software has now also been found on the devices of US diplomats puts the company under further pressure.
Just recently, Apple had closed a security hole that NSO had used to infiltrate and filed a lawsuit against the spy company. In the course of this, Apple had also started to inform those affected by the spying. In doing so, it reportedly found that those affected included U.S. citizens and people whose mail address ends in state.gov, the URL of the U.S. State Department. Reuters now reports that nine members of the U.S. diplomatic staff were spied on. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number is eleven. Meanwhile, which country is behind the spying is unclear.
NSO has already responded to the new allegations, pointing out that the company is not yet aware of any such spying operation. However, it said it would investigate the events and, if the allegations were confirmed, exclude the country responsible for the attack from further use of the software. NSO also stated that telephone lines with the country code 001, the U.S. area code, were excluded from using the software. The diplomats in question must therefore have used cell phone numbers.
According to Reuters, all of those affected have a connection to Uganda: U.S. government personnel are said to have either stayed there or been intensively involved with the country. Ugandan politician Norbert Mao, chairman of the Democratic Party there, is also affected by the espionage. Further developments and the consequences for NSO remain to be seen.