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Study Finds Israeli Hacking Spyware

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A Canadian watchdog said Tuesday that new Israeli-made spyware resembling the notorious Pegasus programme was used to target journalists and opposition politicians in several countries.

According to Citizen Lab, the spyware and related exploit or hacking software were created by the little-known firm QuaDream Ltd, which was founded by a former Israeli military official and veterans of NSO Group, the creator of Pegasus.

Citizen Lab, which investigates the misuse of digital technologies, said it had identified at least five people in North America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East who had been targeted by QuaDream spyware and exploits.

“Victims include journalists, political opposition figures, and an NGO worker,” it said, declining to identify them.

Spyware such as Pegasus has been widely used by governments and other actors to spy on adversaries, the media, and activists.

The programmes can be installed on computers and cellphones through phishing communications and backdoor exploits, and they can survey and transmit data from the phone to an operator without the user’s knowledge.

The White House stated in late March that governments have used Pegasus “to facilitate repression and enable human rights abuses.”

According to Citizen Lab, once installed on a user’s phone or computer, QuaDream’s spyware can record audio from a phone call, external sounds from a device’s microphone, photos from cameras, and file searches, all without the user’s knowledge.

The spyware can also generate its own two-factor authentication codes, allowing it to maintain continuous access to the device owner’s cloud accounts.

According to Citizen Lab, the spyware includes a self-destruct feature to hide its previous presence once it is no longer used.

Citizen Lab discovered servers in ten countries, including Israel, Singapore, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and Bulgaria, that received data from victims’ devices.

Citizen Lab reported that QuaDream has marketed its spyware and services to government clients in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Ghana, Indonesia, and Morocco.

Info source – Malaysia Now

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