WhatsApp was recently used as a medium to attack various senior officials of the United States and its allied governments, says a report from sources in touch with Facebook’s internal investigation.
As per VentureBeat, the sources aware of the investigation have confirmed that a large percentage of the victims are high-profile government and military officials spread across 20 countries around the globe.
This report which puts a large number of key government officials as potential victims may have some serious political and diplomatic consequences.
Earlier this week, Facebook sued Israel’s NSO Group for development and sales of a hacking platform which exploited WhatsApp’s call vulnerability, impacting as many as 1,400 users.
We still don’t have the exact identity of the people behind these hacks, but NSO has tried covering up the whole case by stating that they sell their spyware exclusively to government officials, which would mean that all this hacking was being performed by state agents, shifting blame (or at least a portion of it) away from NSO.
The victims are spread across countries like United States, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Mexico, Pakistan and India, said the sources, however, it is yet to be confirmed if all of the victims from these countries are linked with the government. For instance, over a dozen Indian journalists and human rights activist have also confirmed attacks through the spyware.
Over the last few years, cybersecurity researchers have found NSO to be linked with production of spywares used on various targets, including protestors across the world. However, its use against government officials puts a new perspective on this.
CitizenLab, a research group working with WhatsApp on this case stated that over 100 of its targets are journalists and dissidents instead of criminals.
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher with CitizenLab said:
It is an open secret that many technologies branded for law enforcement investigations are used for state-on-state and political espionage.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp is rolling out warning notification to all the affected users.