Phones belonging to at least nine US State department officials were hacked using the Pegasus software developed by Israeli company NSO a recent report by Reuters claimed. The officials were all linked to Uganda or were involved in some capacity with the country when the cyberattacks were conducted the report said.
Reuters alleged that such a widespread cyberattack on US State employees had not been detected yet although earlier investigation by the American government had uncovered plans to infect phones of key officials with the spyware which has been lambasted as a tool to suppress opposition and spy on critics in many parts of the world.
"If our investigation shall show these actions indeed happened with NSO's tools, such customer will be terminated permanently and legal actions will take place," said an NSO spokesperson to Reuters, who added that NSO will also "cooperate with any relevant government authority and present the full information we will have."
The infected phones were all Apple iPhones which could give further strength to Apple's pending lawsuit that accuses the Israeli company of aiding various clients to break into its devices by exploiting security issues. Apple in September fixed a loophole that allowed the Pegasus software to be installed by sending an "invisible" message to iPhones which would not even need to be interacted with by the owner.
Once installed, Pegasus allows another user to see all activity on the phone and even read messages. Apple now notifies users of any security breach involving the Pegasus software.
The US Commerce Department blacklisted NSO last month on charges of 'supplying software to " foreign governments that used this tool to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers," according to a statement. This blacklisting has made it much harder for US companies to do business with the group.