According to a report in the British newspaper – The Guardian, mobile phones of at least two dozen Pakistani government officials have been targeted using technology developed by Israeli company NSO.
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It is unclear who was involved in the attack, but it was feared that Pakistan’s traditional rival India might be behind it, according to reports.
Many Pakistani defence and intelligence officials were among those who could have been compromised the report states. The attack on Pakistani officials was detected during an analysis of 1,400 people whose phones were the focus of hacking attempts in a two-week period earlier this year, according to the sources.
Earlier, Pakistan Ministry of Information Technology and Communication had reportedly warned senior government officials holding sensitive positions to avoid using WhatsApp. The intelligence agencies of the enemy countries have acquired the ability to access mobile phones and with the assistance of Israeli company, NSO,” the warning letter read.
The discovery of the breach in May prompted WhatsApp to file a lawsuit against NSO in October in which it blamed NSO of “unauthorised access and abuse” of its services.
The lawsuit claimed intended targets included “attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other foreign government officials”. NSO has said it will quickly challenge the accusations and asserted that its technology is only used by law enforcement agencies to catch criminals, terrorists and paedophiles.
NSO Group came to limelight in 2016 when researchers accused it of helping spy on an activist in the UAE. Its best-known product is Pegasus, a highly intrusive engine that can turn on a target’s phone camera and microphone and access the complete data on it.