Google: Apple and Android phones were attacked by Italian spyware


Hacking tools from an Italian company were used to spy on Apple Inc and Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan, Alphabet Inc’s Google said in a report on Thursday.

RCS Lab, based in Milan and whose website claims that European law enforcement agencies are its clients, developed tools to spy on private messages and contacts from selected devices, according to the report.

The google findings about RCS Lab come at a time when European and US regulators are weighing possible new rules on the sale and import of spyware.

“These vendors are allowing the proliferation of dangerous hacking tools and arming governments that could not develop these capabilities internally,” Google said.

Apple and the governments of Italy and Kazakhstan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

RCS Lab said its products and services comply with European standards and help law enforcement investigate crimes.

“RCS Lab personnel are not exposed to, nor do they participate in, any activities conducted by the relevant clients,” he told Reuters in an email, adding that he condemned any abuse of his products.

Google said it had taken steps to protect users from its Android operating system and alerted them to the spyware.

The global industry that manufactures spyware for governments has been growing, with more and more companies developing interception tools for police organizations. Anti-surveillance activists accuse them of aiding governments which, in some cases, use these tools to violate human and civil rights.

The sector received worldwide attention when it was discovered in recent years that the Pegasus spyware from the Israeli company NSO it had been used by various governments to spy on journalists, activists and dissidents.

While RCS Lab’s tool isn’t as stealthy as Pegasus, it can still read messages and see passwords, said Bill Marczak, a security researcher at the digital watchdog. Citizen Lab.

“This shows that although these devices are ubiquitous, there is still a long way to go to protect them from these powerful attacks,” he added.

On its website, RCS Lab describes itself as a manufacturer of “lawful interception” technologies and services that include voice, data collection, and “tracking systems.” says he drives 10 thousand targets intercepted daily in Europe alone.

Google researchers discovered that RCS Lab had previously collaborated with the controversial and defunct Italian espionage company Hacking Team, which had created a surveillance software similar for foreign governments to seize phones and computers.

hacking-team went bankrupt after being the victim of a major hack in 2015 that led to the disclosure of numerous internal documents.

In some cases, Google said it believed those using RCS spyware work with the target’s Internet service provider, suggesting they had ties to government-backed actors, said Billy Leonard, a senior Google researcher. (rts)

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