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Apple and Android phones hacked by Italian spyware, Google says

A man holds a laptop computer in this illustrative photo taken on May 13, 2017 as a cyber code is guessed on it. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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SAN FRANCISCO, June 23 (Reuters) – A hacking tool from an Italian company was used to spy on Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) and Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan, Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O) Google said on Thursday. said in a report.

Milan-based RCS Lab, whose website claims European law enforcement agencies as customers, has developed tools to spy on private messages and contacts of targeted devices, the report said.

European and US regulators are weighing potential new rules on the sale and importation of spyware.

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“These vendors are enabling the proliferation of dangerous hacking tools and arming governments that would not be able to develop these capabilities in-house,” Google said.

The governments of Italy and Kazakhstan did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An Apple spokesperson said the company has revoked all known accounts and certificates associated with this hacking campaign.

RCS Lab said its products and services comply with European regulations and help law enforcement agencies investigate crimes.

“RCS Lab personnel are not exposed to, nor participate in, any activity conducted by the customers concerned,” it told Reuters in an email, condemning any misuse of its products.

Google said it has taken steps to protect users of its Android operating system and alerted them to spyware.

The global industry producing spyware for governments is growing, and more companies are developing interception tools for law enforcement. Anti-surveillance activists accused him of aiding governments that in some cases use such tools to crack down on human rights and civil rights.

The industry came into the global spotlight when Pegasus spyware from Israeli surveillance firm NSO was used in recent years by multiple governments to spy on journalists, activists and dissidents.

Bill Markzak, a security researcher at digital watchdog Citizen Lab, said that although RCS Lab’s tool may not be as stealthy as Pegasus, it can still read messages and view passwords.

“This suggests that even though these tools are ubiquitous, there is still a long way to go in securing them against these powerful attacks,” he said.

On its website, RCS Lab describes itself as a manufacturer of “legitimate interception” technologies and services that include voice, data collection and “tracking systems”. It says it handles 10,000 intercepted targets daily in Europe alone.

Google researchers found that RCS Lab previously collaborated with the controversial, defunct Italian spy firm Hacking Team, which similarly created surveillance software for foreign governments to tap into phones and computers.

The hacking team was busted in 2015 after falling victim to a major hack that led to the disclosure of several internal documents.

Billy Leonard, a senior Google researcher, said that in some cases, Google said it believed hackers using RCS spyware worked with the target’s Internet service provider, which suggests that their government There were ties to supported actors.

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Reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Otis and David Gregory

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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