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American Diplomats’ iPhones Reportedly Compromised by NSO Group Intrusion Software

The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters. NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers’ access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved. “Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations,” an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. “To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case.” The Israel-based company, recently sanctioned by the US for allegedly offering its intrusion software to repressive regimes and sued by both Apple and Meta’s (Facebook’s) WhatsApp for allegedly supporting the hacking their customers, says that it will cooperate with any relevant government authority and pass on what it learns from its investigation of the incident.

Analyst Notes

It is possible for this particular use of NSO Group’s software to be the reason why they were sanctioned earlier this year. However, it should be noted that for most organizations that are not in the business of advocating for human rights or journalism that reports on repressive regimes, NSO malware should not be a high priority in their threat model, since it has been used against a narrow set of targets.