Malicious software from Hacking Team of Italy that can be used to spy on cell phones has been found by Citizen Lab activists to have been used to target people in Saudi Arabia. The software was bundled into a fake phone application for Qatif Today, a local news site.
The discovery may shed light on aWikileaks report that claimed Hacking Team sales people — notably a Lebanese citizen named Mostapha Maanna — made three trips to Saudi Arabia in 2012, soon aftermajor protests in the country.
Hacking Team, a company from Milan, is well known for selling technology to governments that can be used to create emails to target individuals by inviting them to click on a link or attachment which then installs a spy tool called Remote Control System (RCS) on the target’s computer. RCS (also known as DaVinci) can then copy the Web browsing history of its targets, turn on their computer microphone and webcam to eavesdrop on them, as well record their conversations on computer applications like Skype.
The new Hacking Team exploit that Citizen Lab researchers discovered was bundled into a fake Android phone app that purported to be from Qatif Today, a news web site in the eastern Saudi province that has a large Shia population.