Published in Mobiles

United Arab Emirates hunted Apple fanboys

by on31 January 2019

Apple's faith-based security made them easy targets

A team of former US government intelligence operatives working for the United Arab Emirates hacked into the iPhones of activists, diplomats and rival foreign leaders.

Apparently the iPhone's faith-based security fell over when dealing with the spook's Karma spying tool.

While the Tame Apple Press has commented that the campaign that shows how potent cyber-weapons are proliferating beyond the world's superpowers and into the hands of smaller nations, others are wondering why they just targeted Apple fanboys.

Karmal allowed the small Gulf country to monitor hundreds of targets beginning in 2016, from the Emir of Qatar and a senior Turkish official to a Nobel Peace laureate human-rights activist in Yemen, according to five former operatives and program documents reviewed by Reuters.

Karma was used by an offensive cyber operations unit in Abu Dhabi comprised of Emirati security officials and former American intelligence operatives working as contractors for the UAE's intelligence services. The existence of Karma and of the hacking unit, code named Project Raven, haven't been previously reported. 

The ex-Raven operatives described Karma as a tool that could remotely grant access to iPhones simply by uploading phone numbers or email accounts into an automated targeting system. The tool has limits -- it doesn't work on Android devices and doesn't intercept phone calls. But it was unusually potent because, unlike many exploits, Karma did not require a target to click on a link sent to an iPhone, they said.

We don't know what the UAE would do with all those copies of Coldplay and SMS messages from the fanboy's mother to get him to clean up his room.

Last modified on 31 January 2019
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