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WhatsApp malware targeted senior government officials

By Yana Berman

Government and military officials in 20 countries targeted by malware via WhatsApp

A malware attack described by WhatsApp in a recent lawsuit could be targeting senior government and military officials in multiple countries, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Initially WhatsApp claimed that the malware was aimed at members of civil society, such as human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and academics.

However, according to people familiar with the investigation, a "significant" number of high-profile officials in more than 20 countries was also involved in the breach. Most of them reportedly were US allies.

As previously reported, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in California against Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, accusing it of spying on its users.

According to the lawsuit, the company allegedly developed a malware targeting WhatsApp users and later spread it via video calls in April and May. The user could skip the call but the virus was still able to strike the smartphone.

The attack reportedly affected more than 1,400 users in various countries, including the United States, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Mexico, Pakistan and India. But the overall number of affected users could be even higher, Reuters claims.

NSO Group denied the allegations, stating that its only purpose is to provide technology to licensed government agencies to help combat terrorists and criminals.

Nonetheless, in a separate statement the company said it was “not able to disclose who is or is not a client or discuss specific uses of its technology”. Some experts believe that NSO products were previously used against multiple people, including protesters in troubled countries.

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