Apple and Android phones attacked by Italian spyware, Google says

Apple and Android phones attacked by Italian spyware, Google says

Google says it has taken steps to protect users of its Android operating system.

San Francisco:

An Italian company’s hacking tool has been used to spy on Apple Inc and Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan, Alphabet Inc’s Google said in a report Thursday.

Milan-based RCS Lab, whose website claims European law enforcement agencies as clients, has developed tools to track private messages and contacts of targeted devices , the report said.

Google’s findings on the RCS Lab come as European and US regulators weigh potential new regulations on the sale and import of spyware.

“These vendors are facilitating the proliferation of dangerous hacking tools and arming governments that would not be able to develop these capabilities in-house,” Google said.

Apple and the governments of Italy and Kazakhstan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

RCS Lab says its products and services comply with European rules and help law enforcement agencies investigate crimes.

“RCS Labs staff may not have contact with, nor participate in, any activities conducted by the relevant customers,” the firm told Reuters in an email, adding that it was punish any misuse of its products.

Google says it has taken steps to protect users of its Android operating system and warn them about spyware.

The global industry of creating spyware for governments is growing, with more and more companies developing interceptors for law enforcement organizations. Anti-surveillance activists who accuse them of assisting the government in some cases are using such tools to suppress human and civil rights.

In recent years, the industry has come into the spotlight globally when Pegasus spyware from Israeli surveillance company NSO was discovered to have been used by multiple governments to spy on journalists. , activists and dissidents.

Bill Marczak, a security researcher with digital watchdog Citizen Lab, said: “While RCS Lab’s tool may not be as stealthy as Pegasus, it can still read messages and view passwords. .

He added: “This shows that although these devices are ubiquitous, there is still a long way to go to protect them against these powerful attacks.

On its website, RCS Lab describes itself as a manufacturer of “legitimate interception” technologies and services including voice, data collection and “tracking systems”. It says it processes 10,000 intercepted targets daily in Europe alone.

Google researchers found that RCS Lab previously partnered with controversial, defunct Italian spy firm Hacking Team, which created similar surveillance software for foreign governments hack into phones and computers.

Hacking Team went bankrupt after falling victim to a major hack in 2015 that resulted in the disclosure of many internal documents.

In some cases, Google said it believes hackers using RCS spyware worked with the target’s internet service provider, which suggests they have ties to government-backed parties. conflict, said Billy Leonard, a senior researcher at Google.

(Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in San Francisco; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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