Several US Department of State officials’ phones were apparently hijacked by an anonymous attacker using spyware produced by NSO Group, according to reports.
According to Reuters, “at least nine” State Department workers were hacked, all of whom were “either based in Uganda or focused on topics impacting the East African country.” The affected devices’ Apple IDs were said to be linked to their “@state.gov” email addresses.
According to the article, Apple made the announcement as part of a larger attempt to notify consumers who have been targeted by spyware, which the company disclosed in November alongside a lawsuit trying to block NSO Group from purchasing any of its products.
The disclosure also follows the US Department of Commerce’s decision to add NSO Group to the Entity List for supplying its spyware to governments that used it “to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers.”
NSO Group tells Reuters that it doesn’t know if its spyware was used to hack these State Department employees, but it’s said to have “cancelled the relevant accounts,” which suggests the company has some idea of the organization responsible for compromising the devices.