NSO Group Software Pegasus iPhone hack

Journalist’s smartphones hacked by spyware 

Friday 27 August, 2021

Smartphone hacks are more often associated with criminal gangs attempting to gain financial benefit from their victims. They are often sophisticated in their approach but have a very broad attack method by attempting to breach multiple smartphones in one go.

However, there are a growing number of sinister and very targeted attacks, often by governments, to hack smartphones of journalists, corporate executives and human rights activists that pose a threat to their political ideology. 

Following an investigation by a well known and respected US Newspaper, along with 16 of their media partners, the report shows that a list of over 50,000 contacts had been compiled, primarily within countries that are already known to conduct surveillance of their citizens. 

The spyware used, named Pegasus, had been developed by an Israeli company called NSO Group, which is operating in the largely unregulated scope of private spyware development. NSO Group states that the use of their spyware is intended only for the monitoring of terrorists and high value criminals and not for the surveillance of private citizens, or for political gain. 

Pegasus spyware targets Apple iPhone iMessage App

It appears that the Pegasus exploits a serious weakness in Apple iMessage that enables hackers to successfully infect the smartphones with "zero-click" texts through iMessage app. This means the targeted user does not even have to open the text message in order for their smartphone to be breached.

This illustrates that the iPhone is clearly not as secure as Apple pertains it to be, even if the latest updates had been installed. 

Journalists, politicians and heads of state iPhones hacked

Within the report, there were approximately 1,000 specific numbers that were able to be identified as being hacked by the spyware. Not only journalists were on the list. It also contained politicians, heads of state, security officers and diplomats. 

Naturally, the results of this investigation have caused serious concerns regarding the security and privacy of high ranked targets across the business and political spectrums. 

In response to the report, NSO Group disputed the findings saying that they were both exaggerated and baseless. They also stated that they have no insight into their clients’ surveillance activities. Further, the company has stated that they do not support the misuse of their systems and have, on two occasions, terminated the contracts of the clients. Although they were not stating who those clients were. 

Despite their best efforts to date, these high value targets were unable to prevent their smartphones from being hacked, and the data security and privacy were breached. 

In order to protect themselves from the future prospect of being attacked by highly sophisticated spyware, they will need to dramatically upgrade their smartphone security and privacy technology. This is where the Blackphone PRIVY comes in. Read our article What is the most secure phone for journalists?

How does the Blackphone PRIVY defend itself against this type of spyware attack?

The Blackphone PRIVY has been designed and created to use military grade technology that provides security for both its hardware and software.  

Here are some of the security features of the Blackphone PRIVY, that ensure:

  • It is wiretap secure to alert you if an attempt is made to intercept your connection and/or calls
  • All files secured on the handset are encrypted and not stored on third party servers

As this report highlights, the desire by some governments to carry out surveillance on corporate executives and journalists, to name just two, is on the increase. It also shows that the spyware technology exists now, to breach standard mobile phone privacy and security protocols and is likely to improve its abilities over time. 

Now is the time for businesses and individuals to take action to secure the mobile communications, protecting both their personal data and sensitive information. 

Speak to one of our team now to discover how the Blackphone PRIVY can protect you and your mobile communications from hackers. 

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