In a significant development, Citizen Lab, a digital rights watchdog group, warned British officials that electronic devices connected to government networks, including ones inside the Prime Minister’s office and at the Foreign Ministry, appear to be infected with Pegasus, a spyware.
“We confirm that in 2020 and 2021 we observed and notified the government of the United Kingdom of multiple suspected instances of Pegasus spyware infections within official UK networks,” reads a blog post from Citizen Lab.
A spokesperson for the British government said, “we do not routinely comment on security matters.”
Citizen Lab said it believes the targeting of connected devices at the Prime Minister’s office was done by NSO clients in the United Arab Emirates.
Citizen Lab found evidence of the compromised devices in the UK after monitoring internet traffic and other digital signals to spy servers that control Pegasus for various NSO clients.
“We identified infections emanating from those UK networks based on a variety of network scanning methods we use, and notified the relevant UK authorities of our suspicions at the time for them to follow up,” wrote Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert in a blog post. “We did not have access to any devices, and do not have any information on specific victims.”
Within the cybersecurity industry, Citizen Lab is well known for its leading research on mercenary spyware.
According to a report from the New Yorkers, hacking activity connected to the British Prime Minister’s Office was investigated by the UK National Cyber Security Centre, with technicians testing multiple phones to find malware. The findings were inconclusive.