Moscow, 31 Jan — “News. Economy”

A vulnerability in the iPhone allowed former American intelligence officers, working for the government of the UAE for several years to spy on government officials, diplomats and even foreign leaders, reports Reuters, citing sources, who requested anonymity.

Software for spying under the name Karma was created three years ago and used to hack into dozens of diplomats and government leaders from different countries. The creation of the Karma software is in charge of cyber operations UAE, code-named Project Raven. Karma exploits a vulnerability in the messenger, iMessage, built into iOS.

Informants of the Agency, which includes former employees of Raven Project, described a cyber weapon as a tool that can remotely grant access to an iPhone, just by uploading the phone numbers or account e-mail to the automated targeting system.

In 2016 and 2017 AT Karma was used to obtain photographs, emails, text messages and location information from the target iPhone. In order to hack the device, special services you just need to send the file via iMessage. The danger of this method was that the infection of the device the victim didn’t have to click on links or download malware masquerading as legitimate.

So the scouts got remote access to infected smartphones photos, correspondence, data on the movements and even passwords. At different times, Karma has allowed to establish surveillance of the Emir of Qatar, senior officials of Turkey and human rights defenders from Yemen, reported the Agency.

The UAE government purchased Karma from a foreign vendor. Who exactly is a developer tool, the Agency could not figure out. According to the Agency, it is unclear whether the spyware at present. Released by Apple in 2017 updates to iOS have made Karma less effective, Agency sources said.

Karma was used by the division of offensive cyber operations in Abu Dhabi, composed of employees of the security service of the Emirate and former employees of the American National Security Agency (NSA) worked as contractors to the intelligence services of the UAE.

Tools such as Karma that can simultaneously hack iPhone hundreds, collecting data about their location, photos and messages are especially needed in the face of growing race of cyber weapons, which Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, competing for the most advanced hacker tools and staff. It is believed that only about 10 countries such as Russia, China and the United States and its closest allies, is able to develop such weapons, said Michael Daniel, a former cybersecurity specialist at the White house under former President Barack Obama.

Ex-employees of the group Raven told the news Agency that Karma allowed the operatives to collect a variety of information for many purposes — from activists critical of the government, to regional rivals, including Qatar, and ideological enemy, the UAE — international religious-political Association “Muslim brotherhood”. Also helped to access incriminating and sometimes sexually explicit photos.

In accordance with the documents at the disposal of Reuters, the work of hackers from Raven paid through the Emirati cyber security firm DarkMatter, which was established to ensure cyber security and the introduction of a complete system of control over citizens, whether dissidents or supporters of the current regime. The President of the company Faisal al-Bannai said that his company carries out operations for the protection of a number of governments from any possible threats of cyber attacks, providing a range of services for cyber security. The UAE government accounts for 80% of existing customers, so the UAE government is considered to be a strategic partner of the company.

Representatives of the Ministry of foreign Affairs of the UAE and Apple declined to comment to Reuters.

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