Software from Israeli group used to spy on activists and journalists

Several governments have used computer spy tools developed by an Israeli group to target politicians, dissidents, journalists, academics and human rights activists, experts said Thursday.

These powerful “cyber weapons” have targeted a total of more than 100 people worldwide, say messages from a security manager at Microsoft and Citizen Lab, an organization based at the University of Toronto. Microsoft claims to have modified its Windows operating system to repair the flaws exploited by the Israeli group.

According to Citizen Lab, it is a particularly low-key Tel Aviv-based company that exclusively sells spyware to governments that can infect smartphones, computers and cloud computing services. Its official name is currently Saito Tech Ltd but it is mostly known as Candiru.

Its Citizen Lab researchers found evidence that the spy software was able to extract information from several applications used by victims, including Gmail, Skype, Telegram and Facebook. The software can also consult the history of their searches on the Internet as well as their passwords, and activate the camera and the microphone of their devices.


Microsoft emphasizes for its part to have identified victims in the Palestinian Territories, Israel, Lebanon, Yemen, Spain, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Armenia and Singapore. According to the computer company, which dubbed the spy software “DevilsTongue”, it was able to infiltrate popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and Yahoo to collect information, read messages from victims and retrieve photos. The software was also able to send messages on behalf of targeted victims.

The American company has created «protections» to protect its products from the incursions of this software developed by the Israeli group that it calls Surgum. “We have shared these protections with the security community so that we can collectively address and mitigate this threat.”, says Microsoft.


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