Finnish diplomats’ mobile devices hacked with Israeli Pegasus spyware

A “state actor” could be responsible for the hacks, according to the Nordic country’s spy chief.

The mobile devices of Finnish diplomats working abroad have been hacked with the use of sophisticated spyware.

The victims were targeted through Pegasus software developed by Israeli spyware company NSO Group, the Finnish Foreign Ministry said on on Friday.

“The highly sophisticated malware has infected users’ Apple or Android telephones without their noticing and without any action from the user’s part,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry reported it had been investigating the case since the fall, adding that “the espionage is no longer active.”

Antti Pelttari, director of the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service, later said “a state actor of some sort” was likely behind the hack.

‘Even microphones, cameras being spied on’

The Pegasus software can seamlessly infiltrate a mobile phone and allow its operators to gain access to the device’s contents and location history.

Jarmo Sareva, Finland’s Ambassador for Cyber Security, would not disclose the data harvested, but said under government protocols information transmitted by phone must be public or classified at the lowest level.

“As you know Pegasus spyware does take the phone under its control,” Sareva said. “Even the microphone and camera of these devices were being spied on.”

He wouldn’t say how many diplomats were targeted or in which countries they were stationed.

Asked who was believed to be behind the cyber espionage he said: “We have our suspicions of course,” but declined to elaborate.

NSO says it sells Pegasus only to governments for the purpose of fighting crime and terrorism. All sales require approval from Israel’s Defence Ministry.

While it says it has safeguards in place to prevent abuse, NSO says it has no control over how a client uses the product and no access to the data they collect.

NSO has reportedly terminated several contracts due to inappropriate use of Pegasus.

Confirmed targets have included Mexican and Saudi journalists, British attorneys and Palestinian human rights activists.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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