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11 Apr 2022

Israeli Spyware Targeted Senior EU Officials - Sources

The Index Today

According to the two EU officials and documentation reviewed by Reuters, the senior officials at the European Commission were targeted last year with spy software designed by an Israeli surveillance firm.

Among them was Didier Reynders, a senior Belgian statesman who has served as the European Justice Commissioner since 2019, according to one of the documents. At least four other commission staffs were also targeted, according to the document and another person familiar with the matter. The two EU officials confirmed that staffers at the commission had been targeted but did not provide further details.

The two EU officials said that the commission became aware of the targeting following messages issued by Apple to thousands of iPhone owners in November telling them they were "targeted by state-sponsored attackers." It was actually the first time Apple had sent a mass alert to users that they were in government hackers' crosshairs.

The two officials also mentioned that the warnings already triggered immediate concern at the commission. In a Nov. 26 email reviewed by Reuters, a senior tech staff sent a message to colleagues with background about Israeli hacking tools and a request to be on the lookout for additional warnings from Apple.

"Given the nature of your responsibilities, you are a potential target," the tech staffer said in the email, reviewed by Reuters.
Reuters was unable to determine who used the Israeli spyware to target Reynders and his Brussels-based colleagues, whether the attempts were successful, and, if so, what the hackers might have obtained as a result.
NSO said in a statement that it was not responsible for the hacking attempts, saying the targeting described by Reuters "could not have happened with NSO's tools."
In addition to the Reuters report, it said that the company, which faces a number of overlapping lawsuits and was recently blacklisted by U.S. officials over alleged human rights abuses, said it supported an investigation into the targeting and called for the establishment of global rules to govern the spyware industry.

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