A Canadian investigative organisation has said there is evidence of the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) having been infected by spyware in 2020-21.
Citizen Lab – which is based in the University of Toronto and carries out research on digital threats to civil society – has published a statement that it has observed and notified the UK Government of a series of suspected infections of Pegasus spyware within its networks.
Pegasus is a software developed by the Israeli company NSO Group that can be covertly installed on mobile phones and other devices, and which is sold for surveillance activities in law enforcement and national security.
Citizen Lab said the infections related to the FCO were associated with Pegasus operators in the UAE, India, Cyprus and Jordan, and could have come from devices used outside the UK and using foreign SIM cards.
Ron Deibert, director of Citizen Lab, said in the statement: “The United Kingdom is currently in the midst of several ongoing legislative and judicial efforts relating to regulatory questions surrounding cyber policy, as well as redress for spyware victims.
“We believe that it is critically important that such efforts are allowed to unfold free from the undue influence of spyware. Given that a UK based lawyer involved in a lawsuit against NSO Group was hacked with Pegasus in 2019, we felt compelled to ensure that the UK Government was aware of the ongoing spyware threat, and took appropriate action to mitigate it.”
A Government spokesperson said it does not routinely comment on security matters.
According to a BBC report, the NSO Group said the allegations are false and that it has been targeted by “politically motivated” advocacy organisations including Citizens Lab.