A vulnerability in the Facebook-owned WhatsApp allowed spyware to be installed, according to the Financial Times. A Times source said that WhatsApp has yet to determine how many users could have been affected.
WhatsApp engineers were working to close the vulnerability Sunday night and issued a patch for customers on Monday, the Financial Times reported. An unknown number of people - an amount in the dozens at least would not be inaccurate - were infected with the malware, which the company said it discovered in early May, said the spokesman, who was not authorized to be quoted by name.
WhatsApp said it made changes to its infrastructure last week to prevent the attack from happening, and issued an update for its app. The spyware could be transmitted even if the target victim didn't answer their phone, and the calls often disappeared from users' call logs.
According to WhatsApp, the attacks have all the hallmarks of a private company that works with governments to deliver spyware to mobile phones. "We have briefed a number of human rights organisations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society".
The code to exploit this was apparently developed by NSO Group, an Israel-based company that provides spyware to governments.
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Spyware users were able to inject malicious code into their target device by initiating a voice call to the corresponding WhatsApp account. Pegasus can turn on a target's microphone and camera at will, peruse emails and texts, and track location - all without the target's knowledge.
An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on August 28, 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.
The lawyer acted for a Saudi dissident who had sued NSO Group for selling its software to repressive regimes in the Middle East.
"Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is exclusively operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies", NSO said, adding that it would not have the ability to target an individual or organization. "NSO would not, or could not, use its technology in its own right to target any person or organization, including this individual".
On Monday, Amnesty International - which said previous year that one its staffers was also targeted with the spyware - said it would join in a legal bid to force Israel's Defense Ministry to suspend NSO's export license.