Alphabet Inc’s Google said in a report Thursday that an Italian company’s hacking tool was used to spy on Apple Inc and Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan. The Milan-based RCS Lab has posted a European law enforcement agency on its website as a client and has developed a tool to spy on private messages and contacts on targeted devices, the report said.
Google’s findings on the RCS Lab come from European and American regulators considering potential new rules for the sale and import of spyware.
“These vendors allow for a proliferation of dangerous hacking tools and armed governments that can’t develop these features in-house,” Google said. The governments of Apple and Italy and Kazakhstan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
RCS Lab said its products and services comply with European rules and help law enforcement agencies investigate crimes. “The RCS Lab personnel are not open to the public and have not participated in the activities of the relevant customers,” he added by emailing Reuters, accusing him of product abuse.
Google said it has taken steps to protect users of the Android operating system and warned about spyware. The global industry for creating government spyware is growing, with more companies developing interception tools for law enforcement agencies. Anti-surveillance activists have accused them of supporting governments that may be using such tools to crack down on human and civil rights.
In recent years, the industry has received worldwide attention when the Israeli surveillance company NSO’s Pegasus spyware was found to be used by multiple governments to spy on journalists, activists and dissidents.
RCS Lab’s tools may not be as stealth as Pegasus, but they can read messages and display passwords, says Bill Marczak, security researcher at Digital Watchdog Citizen Lab. ..
“This shows that even if these devices are everywhere, there is still a long way to go to protect them from these powerful attacks,” he added.
RCS Lab describes on its website that it is a manufacturer of “lawful intercept” technologies and services such as voice, data acquisition and “tracking systems”. Google researchers have collaborated with the controversial, non-functional Italian spy company Hacking Team, where RCS Lab had previously created surveillance software for foreign governments to use phones and computers as well. I discovered that it was.
The hacking team was the victim of a major hack in 2015 and went bankrupt after numerous internal documents were disclosed.
Billy Leonard, a senior researcher at Google, said he may believe that hackers using RCS spyware are working with targeted Internet service providers.
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