An Israeli software company which creates spyware has developed a tool with the ability to break into users’ cloud-based accounts, according to a report in the Financial Times.
The Pegasus software developed by the NSO Group has been advertised as being able to copy authentication keys and access cloud services like Google Drive or iCloud, and can also access messaging services like Facebook Messenger. Once a phone is infected, the infection can spread to the user’s cloud accounts and download their entire online history. Even after the authentication key is no longer valid, the infection can still remain.
NSO has boasted of the software’s abilities in its pitches to potential customers. The report reveals that “One pitch document from NSO’s parent company, Q-Cyber, which was prepared for the government of Uganda earlier this year, advertised the ability of Pegasus to ‘retrieve the keys that open cloud vaults’ and ‘independently sync-and-extract data’.”
The software works on any device which is vulnerable to Pegasus, including iPhones and Android devices. It “allows ongoing access to data uploaded to the cloud from laptops, tablets and phones — even if Pegasus is removed from the initially targeted smartphone,” according to the report.
Major tech players including Google, Facebook, and Apple said there was no evidence that their servers had been breached, according to the report, although several companies said they were looking into the possibility that hacks could have occurred in the past or could occur in the future.
The NSO denies that its tools are for hacking, however. A spokesman for the company told Gizmodo, “We do not provide or market any type of hacking or mass-collection capabilities to any cloud applications, services, or infrastructure.” However, the company did not deny that it had created software with the ability to hack into cloud applications.
This is not the first time the NSO have been accused of developing invasive or immoral hacking software. The group was behind the WhatsApp hack earlier this year which could install spyware through a missed call. And the company is facing a lawsuit from NGO Amnesty International which alleges that NGO software has been used to surveil Amnesty staff and other human rights defenders, creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Amnesty says that NSO has chosen to ignore reports that its software is being used to repress human rights.