“The Rise of QuaDream Spyware: Targeting Journalists and Opposition Figures Worldwide”

The Rise of QuaDream Spyware Targeting Journalists and Opposition Figures Worldwide
The Rise of QuaDream Spyware Targeting Journalists and Opposition Figures Worldwide
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An Israeli-made spyware program resembling the infamous Pegasus has been used to target journalists and opposition politicians in various countries, according to Canadian watchdog Citizen Lab. QuaDream Ltd, a little-known firm founded by a former Israeli military official and veterans of the NSO Group, created the spyware and associated hacking software. Citizen Lab identified at least five individuals targeted by QuaDream spyware and exploits in North America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, with victims including journalists, political opposition figures, and an NGO worker.

Spyware similar to Pegasus is widely used by governments and other entities to spy on opponents, media, and activists. The programs can be placed on computers and cellphones via phishing communications and backdoor exploits and can survey and transmit information from the phone to an operator without the user’s knowledge. In late March, the White House claimed that Pegasus had been utilized by governments “to facilitate repression and enable human rights abuses.”

Once placed on a user’s phone or computer, QuaDream’s spyware can record audio from phone calls, record external sounds from a device’s microphone, take pictures from cameras, and search the device’s files without the user’s knowledge, according to Citizen Lab. The spyware can also generate its two-factor authentication codes to allow continual access to the device owner’s cloud accounts.

The spyware contains a self-destruct feature that hides its previous existence once it is no longer used, Citizen Lab stated. It identified servers in ten countries that received data from victims’ devices, including Israel, Singapore, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and Bulgaria. Citizen Lab also stated that QuaDream has marketed its spyware and services to government clients in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Ghana, Indonesia, and Morocco.

The use of spyware and other surveillance technologies by governments and other organizations to spy on journalists, activists, and opposition figures has raised concerns about privacy violations and human rights abuses. Citizen Lab and other groups are working to uncover such abuse and promote transparency and accountability in the use of surveillance technologies.

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