Researchers found traces of the spyware on multiple devices belonging to the UK Prime Ministry and the Foreign Office, coming from several foreign countries, including the UAE.
The British Prime Minister’s phone was infected by the Israeli spyware. [DAN KITWOOD/POOL/AFP via Getty]
Israeli spyware used by authoritarian regimes worldwide to monitor dissidents has been found on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s phone, The New Yorker magazine revealed on Monday.
Experts from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab came across multiple signs that the Pegasus spyware had been used to infect devices belonging to the UK Prime Ministry and Foreign Office, including Johnson’s phone.
The cyberattack against Johnson is believed to have originated in the United Arab Emirates, the researchers said.
The attacks targeting devices belonging to the Foreign office were linked to the UAE, India, Cyprus and Jordan.
“We will occasionally observe cases where we suspect that governments are using spyware to undertake international espionage against other governments,” Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab and Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, told The New Yorker.
Deibert’s team notified the UK government in 2020 and in 2021 that they had identified suspected instances of Pegasus infections.
The Pegasus software, developed by a private Israeli company called the NSO Group, gives hackers access to a phone’s entire contents and allows them to use its camera and microphone at will. In many instances, Pegasus has been used by authoritarian regimes to target journalists, opponents and civil society activists.
The NSO Group maintains that its software is not used against human rights defenders, and instead plays a vital role in combatting “terrorists, paedophiles and hardened criminals.”
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