In a new report published on Tuesday, Microsoft Corp and internet watchdog Citizen Lab have revealed that an Israeli company’s hacking tools have been used to target journalists, opposition figures, and advocacy organizations in at least 10 countries. The spyware has affected people in North America and Europe, according to the research.
Identifying the Spyware
Citizen Lab was able to identify several civil society victims whose iPhones had been hacked using surveillance software developed by QuaDream Ltd, a lower-profile competitor to the Israeli spyware company NSO Group. The report notes that the use of the spyware is a violation of civil liberties and human rights.
Microsoft, in its report published at the same time, said it believes with “high confidence” that the spyware was “strongly linked to QuaDream.” The company added that it is crucial to expose these mercenary hacking groups, such as QuaDream, as they “thrive in the shadows.” Publicly outing them is essential to stopping their activities.
The Threat of “Zero-Click” Hacking Tools
QuaDream had previously developed a “zero-click” hacking tool that could remotely compromise devices without an owner needing to open a malicious link or download a tainted attachment. These types of hacking tools are particularly prized by cybercriminals, spies, and law enforcement.
No Response from QuaDream
Israeli lawyer Vibeke Dank, whose email was listed on QuaDream’s corporate registration form, did not return a message seeking comment. Reuters has made repeated attempts to reach QuaDream over the past year, including a visit to the company’s office outside Tel Aviv, but all have been unsuccessful.
The use of spyware against civil society is a violation of basic human rights and civil liberties. Microsoft and Citizen Lab have taken an important step in exposing QuaDream’s activities and linking the spyware to the Israeli company. It is essential to continue to investigate and take action against these types of mercenary hacking groups.