Google revealed on Thursday that a “flourishing” spyware industry was being brought to light by the use of hacking tools by an Italian company to spy on Apple and Android handsets in Italy and Kazakhstan.
According to Google’s threat analysis team, RCS Lab’s spyware targeted the phones using a variety of strategies, including peculiar “drive-by downloads” that take place without the victims’ knowledge.
Media reports that governments were using the Pegasus tools from Israeli company NSO to spy on critics, activists, and journalists last year stoked fears about spyware.
Mobile cybersecurity expert Lookout stated of businesses like NSO and RCS. “They claim to only sell to customers with a legitimate use for surveillance ware, such as intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”
“In reality, such tools have often been abused under the guise of national security to spy on business executives, human rights activists, journalists, academics, and government officials,” Lookout added.
According to Google’s report, the RCS spyware it discovered, known as “Hermit,” is the same one that Lookout previously wrote about.
Just months after anti-government riots there were put down, Lookout researchers said that in April they discovered Hermit being used by the government of Kazakhstan inside its boundaries to spy on iPhones.
“Like many spyware vendors, not much is known about RCS Lab and its clientele,” Lookout said. “But based on the information we do have, it has a considerable international presence.”
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