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Indonesian officials targeted by spyware: sources | Cybersecurity News


More than a dozen senior Indonesian government and military officials were targeted last year with spyware designed by an Israeli surveillance company, according to nine people with knowledge of the matter.

Six of the individuals told Reuters news agency they had been targeted on themselves.

The targets included Economy Minister Airlangga Hartarto, senior military personnel, two regional diplomats and advisers in Indonesia’s foreign and defense ministries, according to the people.

Six of the Indonesian officials and advisers targeted told Reuters they received an email from Apple Inc in November 2021 telling them that Apple believes the officials are being “targeted by those state-sponsored attackers”.

Apple did not disclose the identity or number of users targeted. The company declined to comment for this story.

Apple and security researchers say those who received the alert were targeted using ForcedEntry, an advanced piece of software that has been used by Israeli network monitoring provider NSO Group to help agencies Foreign spy agencies control iPhone remotely and invisible. Another Israeli cyber company, QuaDream, has developed an almost identical hacking tool, Reuters reported.

Reuters was unable to determine who carried out or used this spyware to target Indonesian officials, whether the efforts were successful, and what the hackers were able to gain as a result. .

The attempt to target Indonesian officials, previously unreported, is one of the largest ever cases of the software being used against government and military personnel, according to cybersecurity experts. army and defense ministry.

Spokesmen for the Indonesian government, the Indonesian military, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense, and the Indonesian Cyber ​​and Crypto Agency (BSSN) did not respond to requests for comment and email inquiries.

A spokesman for the State Department said it was not aware of the incident and referred Reuters to BSSN.

Airlangga Hartarto, a top ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, did not respond to questions sent to him by Reuters, nor to his representatives.

The use of ForcedEntry, which exploits an iPhone vulnerability through a new hacking technique without user interaction, was made public by cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab in September 2021. Google security research described this as the “most technically sophisticated” hacking attack they have ever seen, in a company blog post published in December.

Apple patched the security flaw last September, and in November began sending notification messages to what it called “a small number of users that it discovered may have been targeted.”

In response to questions from Reuters, an NSO spokesman denied the company’s software was involved in the targeting of Indonesian officials, dismissing it as “technologically and contractually impossible.” without specifying the reason. The company, which did not disclose the identities of its customers, said it only sells its products to “checked and legal” government organizations.

QuaDream did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the six officials and advisers who told Reuters they had been targeted, a director at an Indonesian state-owned company that supplies weapons to the Indonesian military received a similar message from Apple, according to two people. knowledgeable about this issue. The respondents were not named due to the sensitivity of the matter. Company directors did not respond to a request for comment.

Within weeks of Apple’s announcement last November, the US government added NSO to the Commerce Department’s ‘entity list’, this made it harder for US companies to do business, after it was determined that the company’s phone hacking technology had been used by foreign governments to “maliciously target” dissidents around the world.



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