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Prominent Egyptian Opposition Politician Targeted with Spyware

One sentence summary – Ahmed Altantawy, an Egyptian opposition politician, has been targeted with spyware after announcing his presidential bid, prompting Apple to release updates to its operating system to address the vulnerabilities exploited in the attack; the spyware, known as Predator, can turn a smartphone into a remote eavesdropping device, and Egypt has been identified as a customer of the company that manufactures it, suggesting a potential link to state surveillance activities.

At a glance

  • Ahmed Altantawy, an Egyptian opposition politician, has been targeted with spyware after announcing his presidential bid.
  • Security researchers from Citizen Lab and Google’s Threat Analysis Group discovered the attempted hack.
  • Apple has released updates to its operating system to patch the vulnerabilities exploited in the attack.
  • Altantawy’s devices were infected with Predator spyware through certain websites and SMS and WhatsApp links.
  • Predator spyware can turn a smartphone into a remote eavesdropping device and has been linked to Egypt’s surveillance activities.

The details

Ahmed Altantawy, a prominent Egyptian opposition politician, has been targeted with spyware following his recent announcement of a presidential bid.

The attempted hack was discovered by security researchers from Citizen Lab and Google’s Threat Analysis Group.

In response to the discovery, Apple has released updates to its operating system to patch the vulnerabilities exploited in the attack.

Altantawy’s connection to the Vodafone Egypt mobile network was configured in such a way that his devices would automatically be infected with Predator spyware if he visited certain websites without using the secure HTTPS protocol.

The spyware exploit chain was delivered to Altantawy’s phone via SMS and WhatsApp links, all of which originated from within Egypt.

Predator spyware is known for its ability to transform a smartphone into a remote eavesdropping device, enabling the attacker to steal data.

Egypt has previously been identified as a customer of Cytrox, the company that manufactures Predator spyware, suggesting a potential link to the state’s surveillance activities.

This is not the first time that Altantawy’s devices have been targeted with Predator spyware.

A separate incident occurred in 2021, indicating a pattern of persistent targeting of the opposition politician.

Predator infections have been documented in a variety of cases involving exiled Egyptians, as well as customers in countries such as Armenia, Greece, Indonesia, Madagascar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia.

This underscores the global reach and potential misuse of this surveillance tool.

Altantawy’s bid to challenge President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi in the 2024 presidential election has already encountered numerous obstacles, including harassment of both Altantawy and his supporters.

Apple offers a lockdown mode for high-risk users who have been targeted with spyware, with the aim of enhancing their security and protecting against potential breaches.

In response to the threats posed by surveillance tools, the United States has added Cytrox to its blacklist for developing surveillance tools that pose a threat to national security.

The use of Predator spyware in Greece led to the resignation of two high-ranking government officials, demonstrating the potential political implications associated with its use.

This incident adds to the number of zero-day vulnerabilities found in Apple software that have been patched this month, underscoring the ongoing challenges in securing digital systems against sophisticated cyber threats.

This comprehensive overview of the news story includes all relevant facts and information, while maintaining a neutral and unbiased perspective.

Article X-ray

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securityweek.com
– A leading Egyptian opposition politician, Ahmed Altantawy, was targeted with spyware after announcing a presidential bid.
– Security researchers at Citizen Lab and Google’s Threat Analysis Group discovered the attempted hack.
The discovery prompted Apple to release operating system updates to patch the vulnerabilities.
– Altantawy’s connection to the Vodafone Egypt mobile network was configured to automatically infect his devices with the Predator spyware if he visited certain websites without using the secure HTTPS protocol.
The spyware exploit chain was sent to Altantawy’s phone via SMS and WhatsApp links from Egyptian soil.
The Predator spyware turns a smartphone into a remote eavesdropping device and allows the attacker to steal data.
– Egypt has been identified as a customer of Predator’s maker, Cytrox.
– Altantawy’s phone was successfully hacked with Predator in a separate incident in 2021.
– Predator infections have been documented in other cases involving exiled Egyptians and customers in countries including Armenia, Greece, Indonesia, Madagascar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia.
– Altantawy announced his bid to challenge President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi in 2024, who has been accused of cracking down on political opposition.
– Altantawy and his supporters have complained of harassment.
– Apple offers lockdown mode for high-risk users targeted with spyware.
The U.S. has added Cytrox to its blacklist for developing surveillance tools that threaten national security.
The use of Predator in Greece led to the resignation of two top government officials.
This discovery adds to the number of zero-day vulnerabilities in Apple software that have been patched this month.

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