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At least 50 U.S. Government Employees Targeted with Phone Spyware Overseas

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A pedestrian walks past a branch of the Israeli NSO Group.

Israel-based NSO Group developed a tool that allows its users to steal digital files, eavesdrop on conversations, and track the movements of targets.

Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

At least 50 U.S. government employees in at least 10 countries overseas have had their mobile phones targeted with commercial spyware, a number that is expected to grow as the investigation continues, senior administration officials said this week.

The revelation comes as the White House announces a new executive order to ban the use by the U.S. government of commercial spyware that poses a risk to national security and human rights. The order, unveiled Monday, follows in the wake of a long-running controversy over the misuse of a powerful spyware, Pegasus, by foreign governments to hack journalists, rights activists and dissidents around the world. It also comes as the administration this week co-hosts the second global Summit for Democracy.

In late 2021, Apple alerted roughly a dozen U.S. Embassy employees in Uganda that their iPhones had been hacked using Pegasus, military-grade spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israel-based company with government clients in dozens of countries. The tool allows its users to steal digital files, eavesdrop on conversations and track the movements of targets — often activated through "zero-click" malware that doesn't even require the target to click on a link.

From The Washington Post
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