The United Arab Emirates government (UAE) hacked from 2016 to 2017 the iPhones of diplomats, activists and foreign government officials through a group formed by former US intelligence agents, according to a study cited by the United States. American network NBC.
Among the people being watched in the UAE are the Emir of Qatar, Tamim Al Zaniand a former high-ranking official from Turkey to a Yemeni human rights activist, Tavakkul KarmanAwarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
The investigation cites the testimony of five former intelligence officers, who were in this group, baptized "Project Raven". According to the article, software called “Karma” allowed the Gulf state to receive photographs, emails, text messages, passwords and information on the whereabouts of hundreds of targets, and also showed that this type of cyber weapon was not only the realm of great powers. The unit consisted of Americans who worked in Abu Dhabi in the local secret services and employees of the UAE administration.
Karma, according to testimony, can provide remote access to the iPhone by simply downloading phone numbers or email accounts for spyware purposes. The application does not work with Android devices and does not intercept phone calls. However, unlike other systems, its effectiveness was that it did not require victims to click on the link or download any file.
According to the testimony, this tool took advantage of an error in iMessage, the Apple message system, and worked even if the owner of the phone did not use the program.
“It was like Christmas,” he said. Laurie Stroud, former agent Project Raven, who previously worked at the NSA (National Security Agency).
According to the agents quoted in the report, the government of the Emirates bought Karma from a foreign supplier. The Americans, veterans of the NSA and other special services were hired by the UAE cybersecurity company DarkMatter.
The existence of Karma and the Raven Project group is known in the midst of a growing cyber career, in which Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are fighting for tools and personnel specializing in cyber espionage, reports NBC.
Experts said that this type of software is very popular, and it is believed that only about 10 countries, including Russia, China and the United States, are able to develop them. (Reuters)