Israel accused of spying network codenamed Lashevet

Image copyright DS News

A network of 20,000 phones – almost half owned by the US government – is thought to have been infected with spyware developed by the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, according to a newspaper report.

The investigators traced the leaked code to Israel and believe that the cyber campaign is now complete, according to the Times of Israel.

The newspaper quoted anonymous US and Israeli security officials as saying that the attack was carried out by a “Talmudic sages’ hacker” codenamed Lashevet.

NSO Group was raided by Israeli authorities on Thursday, apparently to check if its spyware was installed on the devices.

That raid, on the NSO unit in the Sandesima business district in central Tel Aviv, was carried out by security officials from the National Counter-Terrorism Authority and involved samples of the spyware obtained from the NSO hackers who stole the secret code from Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Image copyright DS News Image caption The hackers also downloaded more than 20,000 CIA spyware documents from the sources online

The anti-virus company Doctor Web said some of the files were signed by a postscript that referred to “the MacOS Jasmine” – which the US State Department uses.

NSO Group’s web-based spyware appears to have been used to target the US State Department, Australian High Commission, California Department of Justice, US Drug Enforcement Administration, Syrian Interior Ministry, Public Security and the Cyprus Embassy in Washington DC.

The telcos behind the systems include Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, MetroPCS, and US Cellular.

The Guardian says NSO has sold hundreds of thousands of devices to the US government, as well as to other governments around the world, but has been targeted by the company’s own hackers in the past.

Image copyright DS News Image caption NSO spyware has been used to target government computers around the world

However, the company remains adamant that its spyware is purely for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

One of the largest selling organisations in the world, NSO Group boasts that its spyware has been deployed in over 80 countries.

NSO Group could not be reached for comment by the BBC.

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