Belgian politician and current EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, along with four other EU Commission officials, were targeted last year by an Israeli-developed spyware software, according to Reuters.
The EU Commission was made aware of the attack in November, when thousands of iPhones warned their users that they had been the target of “state-sponsored attackers".
"Given the nature of your responsibilities, you are a potential target," EU Commission staff were staff told in an email.
It is still unknown who targeted Reynders’ phone, or whether the attack had been successful. All the officials and staffers targeted by the attack have refused to talk to the media.
The tool used against EU officials is a software called ForcedEntry, an advanced tool developed by the Israeli NSO Group. The cyber security company has been the target of numerous lawsuits and scandals over the use of its cyber-surveillance tools against ordinary citizens, especially in repressive regimes.
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ForcedEntry allows outside parties to access data from iPhones remotely without any need for passwords or permissions. It is similar to the infamous Pegasus tool developed by the NSO group, which exploits the Kernel of the iOS mobile operating system.
The “no-click” surveillance software has been reportedly used by governments across the world to tap the phones of officials, or more commonly, civilian activists in repressive regimes.
The Hungarian, Indian, Bahraini, Armenian, Israeli, Kazakh, Mexican, Moroccan, Panamanian, Polish, Rwandan, Saudi, Spanish, Tongan, Ugandan, and UAE governments have all been suspected to have used NSO group’s spyware against their own civilians.
Smaller Israeli spyware vendors have also sold similar tools to other government clients.