Israeli Firm Tied To Tool That Uses WhatsApp Flaw To Spy On Activists

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: An Israeli firm accused of supplying tools for spying on human-rights activists and journalists now faces claims that its technology can use a security hole in WhatsApp, the messaging app used by 1.5 billion people, to break into the digital communications of iPhone and Android phone users (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). Security researchers said they had found so-called spyware — designed to take advantage of the WhatsApp flaw — that bears the characteristics of technology from the company, the NSO Group.

The spyware was used to break into the phone of a London lawyer who has been involved in lawsuits that accused the company of providing tools to hack the phones of Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi dissident in Canada; a Qatari citizen; and a group of Mexican journalists and activists, the researchers said. There may have been other targets, they said. Digital attackers could use the vulnerability to insert malicious code and steal data from an Android phone or an iPhone simply by placing a WhatsApp call, even if the victim did not pick up the call. As WhatsApp’s engineers examined the vulnerability, they concluded that it was similar to other tools from the NSO Group, because of its digital footprint. WhatsApp engineers patched the vulnerability on Monday. “WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” the Facebook-owned company said in a statement.


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