Israeli agencies NSO Group spying against Pakistani military and intelligence senior officials

Israeli agencies NSO Group spying against Pakistani military and intelligence senior officials

ISLAMABAD - The mobile phones of at least two dozen Pakistani government officials were allegedly targeted earlier this year through Whatsapp by an Israeli spyware company NSO Group, according to a report published in the Guardian.

The report said in such cases the hackers then succeeded to access the data of the affected person very easily.

The UK newspaper report cited sources as saying that scores of Pakistani senior defense and intelligence officials were among those whose information could have been undermined.

Meanwhile, the exceptional sort of malware named is “Pegasus” which was utilized by the NSO group, supposedly between 28 April and 10 May 2019, which affected around 1400 senior government authorities, military authorities, human rights activists and journalists in twenty nations including Pakistan.

Initially, the breach was first debunked by the Financial Times in May, though at that time WhatsApp alerted users to the suspicious video calls and updated the app to fix the breach, yet didn’t distinguish the Israeli organization as behind the assault. It is then found in October that the NSO group is behind each one of those attacked, however, why the NSO group has provoked and who supported it is yet to be unveiled.

The researcher said, the malicious code could be transmitted regardless of whether the user didn’t answer their telephones, and the calls regularly vanished from call logs.

On the other hand, WhatsApp said that it worked closely with Citizen Lab, a research group affiliated with the University of Toronto, focusing on cybersecurity, to investigate the attacks and to refrain such in the future — WhatsApp has also filed a lawsuit against NSO in America in October — which accused the company of “unauthorized access and abuse” of its services.

It is relevant to mention that Pakistan is ranked among the top seven countries for inadequate cybersecurity, with 25 percent of its mobile phones and 14.8 percent of computers infected with malware, according to a study conducted by Comparitech, a UK based research company.

Although, NSO group denied all allegations and said: “the sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime”.

Pakistan’s Stance

Prior in November, the Pakistani government requested the government worker to utilize such telephones which were being made before May 2019 and furthermore reflecting to have a full boycott for sharing significant records on Whatsapp. Meanwhile, the government has promised to make a local-built application for the authorities to ensure privacy.

“We have been working to improve our cybersecurity and develop a messaging application like WhatsApp for government officials,” Dr. Arslan Khalid, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person on digital media had said while giving an interview to the Arab News.

He said the application would cost around Rs1.3 billion and would be launched by June 2020. “Everyone will be on this application, including the president and the prime minister,” he added.