Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office was targeted by Pegasus spyware linked to the United Arab Emirates.
Pegasus spyware is known to turn a phone into a remote listening device and is believed to have targeted number 10. The software has been branded as spyware earlier with its involvement in a number of incidents such as attacks on the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office associated with Pegasus operators linked to the UAE, as well as India, Cyprus, and Jordan.
The Pegasus software is spyware developed, marketed, and licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli firm NSO Group. The spyware is capable of contaminating the phone on iOS or Android operating systems.
According to a report published by The New Yorker, a device connected to the Downing Street network was infected using spyware on July 7, 2020.
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, in a statement, said, “When we found the Number 10 case, my jaw dropped.”
While Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert published on their website, unusual steps were taken by his team to notify officials in a bid to reduce the harm.
Though it is not clear who are the individuals within No. 10 and the Foreign Office that are suspected of having been hacked.
Earlier a similar attack was carried out in 2021, dubbed the FCDO attack involving the hacking of foreign phone numbers used by US State Department employees in Uganda. According to a Reuters report, this attack was carried out using the spyware developed by the NSO Group.
The NSO Group has been blacklisted by the Biden administration in November 2021. While this is not the first time doubts surrounding telecommunications security in Johnson’s administration were raised. Earlier the Prime Minister’s phone number was freely available online for a decade.
In March Johnson also received digested versions of his ministerial red box via WhatsApp on a daily basis, prompting further security concerns.
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