The NSO group spied on the European Union—on French orders?

An espionage attempt was made by a client of the NSO group to hack into the phones of senior EU officials. Although there are suggestions that it could be QuaDream, a similar Israeli spyware company.

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (photo) seems to have been the main target, along with several of his collaborators in the Directorate General for Justice and Consumers. They were notified of the attack five months ago by Apple.

But who ordered the hack? Could it be the French government? In today’s SB Blogwatch, we’re shocked—SHOCKED—to find out a bit of fratricidal espionage.

Your humble blogwatcher has curated these blog bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Shrimp can lobster.

What did Didier do?

What is craic? Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing claim this exclusivity for Reuters: “Senior EU officials targeted by Israeli spyware”:

Remotely and invisibly take control of iPhones
Among them was Didier Reynders, a high-ranking Belgian statesman who has served as EU justice commissioner since 2019. … At least four others [Justice and Consumers] commission staff members were also targeted.

The commission learned of the targeting following messages sent by Apple to thousands of iPhone owners in November telling them they were “targeted by state-sponsored attackers”. … The warnings sparked immediate concern within the commission. … A technical manager sent a message to colleagues with knowledge of Israeli hacking tools: … “Given the nature of your responsibilities, you are a potential target.

The recipients of the warnings were targeted between February and September 2021 using ForcedEntry, advanced software used by Israeli cyber-surveillance provider NSO Group to help foreign spy agencies remotely and invisibly take control of iPhones. A small Israeli spyware vendor named QuaDream also sold an almost identical tool.

So which one was it? And why? Lucas Ropek shrugs – ‘Sophisticated spyware attack’:

Happens potentially at the worst possible time
It is not entirely clear why these officials were targeted or who used the malware against them. … NSO has denied any involvement. … Reuters also contacted QuaDream … but received no kind of comment or response.

Claims that EU officials have been targeted by NSO Group software come at potentially the worst possible time for the company as it continues to struggle with both legal and financial issues, as well as multiple government investigations. … NSO is now appealing to the US Supreme Court in a new effort to get rid of a heavy lawsuit filed by … WhatsApp, [which] sued NSO in October 2019 after the surveillance company’s malware was allegedly discovered on the phones of some 1,400 users. … The company is also currently grappling with another lawsuit filed by Apple last November on similar grounds.

Government investigations? Malcolm Owen isn’t afraid to say a thriller: ‘EU officials’ iPhones were targets of NSO Group spyware’:

Use of monitoring software
The discovery of the misuse of NSO Group tools certainly does not help the company’s profile in the wake of the Pegasus scandal, when the tool was discovered to be used by governments to spy on journalists, activists and opponents of the government, instead of fighting crime. The adoption of Pegasus and other tools by government agencies has led US lawmakers to question Apple and the FBI about the latter’s acquisition of NSO Group tools.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament will launch a commission on April 19 to investigate the use of surveillance software in European member states.

The European Union, huh? FOHEng thinks this should be a teachable moment:

Many of these same EU people think the App Store should be forced open, increasing the vectors of … exploits to make them devices. They’re as dumb as some US senators, who aren’t allowed to download apps to their devices for security reasons, but want to force Apple to allow it. They are really delusional.

Third-party stores with security-checked apps? An oxymoron if there ever was one. …You think iOS third-party stores will be somehow secure and verified apps?

Worthless politicians? zeiche seems to think so:

“It’s okay until it happens to me.” This story has been slowly unfolding for years, but these EU officials didn’t seem too bothered until Apple informed them that their phones had been hacked. … Thanks for all the concern.

But what about Apple in all of this? Consider Roderikus’ predictions:

No more fines for offering a platform that is fundamentally compromised while being marketed as “safe”.

However, mikece is triggered by a certain word in the hed Reuter:

Throwing in the adjective “Israeli” in the title is misleading as it suggests that the State of Israel is involved in some way. … Blaming Israel for this is like blaming Japan for every Toyota Hilux converted into gun platforms in the world.

Yet we still haven’t addressed the “who” question. For that, we turn to Justthefacts:

CitizenLab has made smart geo-fingerprints and has a list of countries that do. … Of these, the credible list is as follows: France, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, United States.

The target was the European Minister of Justice as of 2019. He has no military or outside trade secrets. Neither the UK nor the US are affected in any way by what is happening in his office. So it’s either France, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland.

If you look at the heat map produced by CitizenLab, this is the French the government is spying on the EU. What did you expect?

Nor the “why”: What else do we know about the named victim? ffkom fills us with: [You’re ffired—Ed.]

Didier Reynders is [one of] those politicians who continually undermined EU data protection laws by agreeing to fictitious contracts such as “Safe Harbor” and “Privacy Shield”,…knowing that these contradicted EU law…and weren’t worth the paper they put on they were written. He, personally, is also responsible for not applying… GDPR.

It is in Mr. Reynders’ interest to have his data exposed, just as much as he helped expose the data of EU citizens.

Meanwhile, former Head of the EU Drinks Cabinet, Martini Seltzermayrparade this parody piffle:

Imagine that the contents of a commissioner’s phone provide insight into what is happening at the commission.

And finally:

A joke to wait

Previously in And finally

Have you read SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best blogs, the best forums, and the weirdest websites…so you don’t have to. Hate messages may be directed to @RiCHi or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE. 30.

Sauce image: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (cc:by; leveled and cropped)

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