Israeli intelligence has been secretly hacking into individual iPhones as part of its surveillance and military espionage.
This followed Apple’s discovery of a spyware which could reveal a person’s pictures and messages stored in his or her iPhone, prompting the company to rush an update to users last week.
The spyware when unsuspectingly activated by users, could take control of iPhones without leaving a trace, said reports.
The Apple update was sent after UAE rights activist Ahmed Mansoor’s phone received a message asking him to click on a link for information on detainees tortured in the gulf state.
He then became suspicious and forwarded it mobile security experts Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
The found the spyware “Pegasus” which was developed by NSO Group, a firm owned by US private equity firm Francisco Partners Management, and based in Herzliya, Israel’s very own “silicon valley”.
The research by Citizen Lab found that Mansoor’s iPhone “would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device”.
They also said the spyware could record his WhatsApp and Viber calls as well as track his movements.
An AFP report said that there were more than 300 cyber-related firms in Israel mostly interested in cyber-attack products.
“Israel is among the world leaders in everything involving the cyber sector,” said Daniel Cohen, a cyber-terrorism expert at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.
“After leaving the military, such experts take advantage of their knowledge to create start-ups or get hired at exorbitant salaries by existing firms.”
A recent report by British NGO Privacy International revealed that there are some 27 surveillance firms headquartered in Israel
“Opposition activists, human rights defenders, and journalists have been placed under intrusive government surveillance and individuals have had their communications read to them during torture,” Privacy International said.