Personal details of government staff appear on Russian social media sites after suspected cyber hack

Personal details of government staff appear on Russian social media sites after suspected cyber hack


The Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto, which revealed its findings on Monday, suggested that the Foreign Office devices could have been located abroad, such as those used by the department’s thousands of diplomats.

NSO Group denied these allegations when approached by The Telegraph, but admitted it had “terminated several contacts” after “potential misuse” was suspected.

Last year it came to light that at least nine US state department phones were hacked using the software, with NSO pledging to investigate and terminate the contract of whichever agency was using their software.

Earlier that year it was reported that numbers from the US, as well as the other Five Eyes countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK) and Israel, were exempt from the espionage tool.

‘NSO should be sanctioned’

On Tuesday night, the Government faced calls to sanction NSO Group for its role in spying on the UK and its allies.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, told The Telegraph: “These troubling revelations raise serious questions about cyber security at the heart of government and the actions of close partners of the UK.

“This must be thoroughly investigated.

“NSO should be sanctioned for enabling malicious cyber activity against the UK, our allies, and human rights and democracy campaigners around the world.“

Amnesty International echoed Labour’s call, saying that there needs to be “an immediate moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of this kind of surveillance technology until a robust regulatory framework is put in place”.

Johnson could raise issue on India visit

One of the Pegasus spyware infections on a Foreign Office phone was linked to India by The Citizen Lab, with their findings coming less than three weeks after Liz Truss announced that India and the UK will “carry out joint exercises to practice combating threats from cybercriminals and ransomware”.

It has been suggested that Mr Johnson is likely to raise this issue when he meets Narendra Modi in India later this week.

RUSI, the leading defense and security think tank, told The Telegraph that the issue might not be discussed publicly because of an ongoing inquiry at the Indian Supreme Court which is assessing evidence that its government used Pegasus spyware to monitor political opponents, journalists and activists.

Additya Dave, research analyst of international security studies at Rusi, said: “The UK PM will likely mention the specific case of the hacking of an FCDO device by an Indian operator, but he may find it more fruitful to do so behind closed doors.

“There is an ongoing Supreme Court inquiry in India on the alleged use of the Pegasus software by the Indian government, so the Government will probably not be willing to discuss this publicly during the visit.

“While the Government has denied using Pegasus for illicit snooping, they have been less clear about whether they have purchased the software or whether they have used the software for what they claim to be national security reasons.”

The Foreign Office was contacted for comment.

NSO denies allegations

An NSO Group spokesman said that the allegations found by The Citizen Lab were “false and could not be related to NSO products for technological and contractual reasons”.

“We have repeatedly stated that while we are restricted in what we can say due to confidentiality and national security issues, we have conducted investigations while credible allegations merit, and have learned from each of these findings and reports, and improved the safeguards in our technologies , the customer vetting process and our abilities to investigate potential misuses by our customers.

“In fact, we have terminated several contracts after potential misuse was suspected.”

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