In our previous article entitled “Journalist’s smartphones hacked by spyware” we highlighted how the Israeli based organisation NSO Group were accused of supplying spyware to rogue states and governments to help them monitor their opposer’s activities.
The NSO Pegasus spyware has now been very publicly implicated in a high level and far-reaching hack of multiple smartphones.
Back in August 2020 a phone call was made, from a senior staff member of the NSO Group, to Cherie Blaire QC (the wife of the UK’s past Prime Minister Tony Blaire), who is an advisor to the group on business and human rights matters. The call made clear that the Pegasus spyware had been deployed on to a range of UK based smartphones and was spying on their activities.
The first phone alleged to have been hacked was owned by Princess Haya of Jordan, the ex-wife of Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. In addition, the phones of Baroness Fiona Shackleton QC and Nick Manners who act as her solicitors were also said to have been hacked by the spyware.
Following the phone call to Cherie Blaire, she urgently informed Baroness Shackleton of the situation and that NSO had said they were no longer able to access the phones involved using NSO software.
It is thought that any contracts with the UAE have since been terminated.
The allegations suggest that the hack was as a result of an instruction from her ex-husband Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, an allegation he strongly denies.
Serious implications of spyware hack
It seems almost impossible to conceive that a member of the British House of Lords and her legal associates have been hacked in such a way. The nature of the information that could have been obtained has the potential to reach much further than the single case of Princess Haya.
The hack highlights how much risk there is when using unsecured smartphones and the importance that should be placed on using military grade encryption and highly secured handsets.
It also highlights how the targets of the Pegasus spyware now reaches beyond political or social opposition. It has moved into more sinister and personal circles. Naturally this shift should start ringing alarm bells for anyone who has either high profile business dealings or a private personal life.
How to react to this spyware hack?
Fortunately, for most everyday smartphone users, this type of attack is very specific and very targeted, so they don’t have to worry too much about it on a personal level. Secondly, the spyware hack is very expensive to carry out, so unless you have something of significant value to the instigator, it is unlikely you will be a target.
However, with that said, this particular attack shows that even if you are not a direct target, you could be associated with someone of interest and therefore be a target to find out more details about conversations they are having.
What has become clear is that the use of this type of attack is becoming more widespread, so businesses that are concerned about their Intellectual Property, Financial Information or Contract Details should think seriously about protecting their communications by changing their smartphones to the new Blackphone PRIVY 2.0. Much the same can be said for individuals who feel their personal information, data files and locations should remain private.
The Blackphone PRIVY 2.0 has been designed to meet all these security and privacy concerns. If you would like to speak further about how the Blackphone PRIVY 2.0 can secure your communications, please call one of our team.