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WhatsApp hack allegedly used NSO Group spyware: a look at the Israeli tech firm – National

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WhatsApp hack allegedly used NSO Group spyware a look at the Israeli tech firm National

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Billions of people are being urged to update their WhatsApp messaging app in the wake of news that a seemingly innocuous voice call could allow hackers access to their phone.

The security vulnerability allowed hackers to install surveillance software, even if a user didn’t answer the call, the Financial Times reported.


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WhatsApp hacked after attackers install spyware on people’s phone

It’s not yet known how many people were targeted or affected. But the company updated its software, fixed the security flaw and is asking users to update their app.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said the attack was sophisticated and had all the hallmarks of a “private company working with governments on surveillance.”

But questions remain about who was targeted and why.

The Financial Times reported the hack was done by spyware made by the Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group.

WATCH: What you should do if your email gets hacked





The group is known for creating the malware called Pegasus, which allows hackers to access messages, location services, wifi passwords and other data.

“It’s a very advanced spyware,” said Iman Sharafaldin, a cybersecurity researcher at the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity in New Brunswick.

“Your phone will become a permanent spy in your life, even if you disable the deepest sleep mode. It permanently records and it hijacks your camera, it hijacks your microphone and permanently spies on you.”

Asked about the report, NSO said its technology is licensed to authorized government agencies “for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror” and that it does not operate the system itself while having a rigorous licensing and vetting process.

WATCH: Help wanted — Canada struggling for experts in war against hackers





“We investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system,” the company said. “Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

But human rights agency Amnesty International says the company’s safeguards around who it sells its software to are “ineffective.”

“The company has failed to disclose its due diligence process, except for veiled references to the existence of an ethics committee,” a release from Amnesty International reads. “It remains unclear what factors are taken into consideration before the company sells an inherently invasive product like Pegasus.”

Amnesty International, along with other human rights groups, says it is supporting legal action asking the Israeli Ministry of Defence to revoke the export licence of NSO Group.

Human rights agencies targeted

WhatsApp said it was “deeply concerned about the abuse” of such surveillance technologies and that it believed human rights activists may have been the targets.

“We’re working with human rights groups on learning as much as we can about who may have been impacted from their community. That’s really where our highest concern is,” a company spokesman said.

Toronto-based Citizen Lab research shows multiple previous instances of Pegasus software being used by bad actors, saying there is “empirical evidence that NSO Group’s technology has been used abusively and illegally to spy on civil society, human rights defenders and journalists, among other targets.”

Most notably, Citizen Lab notes a Saudi dissident — who had contact with journalist Jamal Khashoggi — was targeted by Pegasus software linked to Saudi Arabia.

—With files from Reuters

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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