Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Several European Commission officials were reportedly targeted by Israeli-made spyware tools, raising a fresh wave of concern in the EU over the sale and use of cyberweapons by private companies.
According to two EU officials and documentation reviewed by Reuters, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and at least four other European Commission staffers were targeted by spyware tools developed by Israeli cyber warfare vendors.
The Commission reportedly first became aware of the hacking attempt after Apple sent messages to thousands of iPhone owners in November last year, informing them that they were “targeted by state-sponsored attackers”.
Neither Reynders or his office, nor any of the Commission staffers or Apple commented on the report, making it impossible to determine at this point which state was behind the hacking attempt on the Commissioner and EC staffers, whether the attacks were ultimately successful, and what the attackers might have obtained.
According to security researchers, Apple’s notification was tied to use of ForcedEntry, a spyware developed by the Israeli NSO Group intended to remotely take control of targets’ iPhones. A smaller Israeli vendor, QuaDream, reportedly sold a virtually identical tool to state actors.
The European Parliament is already set to launch an investigative committee on the use of surveillance software in the EU, prompted by revelations concerning another of NSO Group’s spyware tools, Pegasus, suspected to be used against a range of opposition figures, critical journalists and dissenters in many authoritarian countries.
The main driver behind the committee’s forming was the revelation that senior opposition figures in Poland were targeted by Pegasus, as were investigative journalists and government critics in Hungary. Both Poland and Hungary were confirmed as NSO Group’s clients, though their governments denied using the software for illegal purposes.