Hacking tools from Italian company RCS Lab (controlled by Elettronica) have been used to spy on Apple and Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan, according to Google. All the details
The software of Rcs Lab, an Italian company specialized in communications surveillance, used to violate smartphones and spy on users in Italy and Kazakhstan. This is what we read in a report by Google, published on June 23. According to the engineers of the Mountain View giant, RCS Lab has developed software that can access the private messages and contacts of the hacked electronic devices. "These vendors are enabling the proliferation of dangerous hacking tools and arming governments that would not be able to develop these capabilities internally," the Google post reads. Pegasus case remember? The surveillance industry came under the global spotlight when the Pegasus case exploded in recent years. That is the spyware of the Israeli surveillance company NSO used by multiple governments to spy on journalists, activists and dissidents. "While RCS Lab's tool may not be as stealthy as Pegasus, it can still read messages and display passwords," Bill Marczak, a researcher at Citizen Lab, told Reuters. RCS Lab immediately rejected all the allegations. The Milanese company is the main supplier in Italy of tools for environmental, telephone and telematic interceptions to prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and services. The capital of Rcs Lab is held by the holding company Aurora, recently acquired by Cy4gate (Elettronica group). All the details. BIG G'S ACCUSATION This is revealed by Google, which denounces a "thriving" cyber espionage industry. "These companies facilitate the proliferation of dangerous piracy tools and arm governments that would otherwise not be able to develop these skills," says the American high-tech giant. Google said it had taken steps to protect users of its Android operating system and alerted them to spyware. SPY SOFTWARE ON ANDROID AND APPLE SMARTPHONES Google engineers explain that the victims, smartphone users with Android (Google) and iOS (Apple), received a link that installs malicious applications, then allowing them to spy on their activity on the mobile phone or extract documents. In some cases, hackers act with the complicity of internet providers, and the apps resemble those of well-known operators. IN GOOGLE'S CROSSHAIRS THE COMPANY RCS LAB According to Google, the software in question is that of RCS Lab, an Italian company that "provides cutting-edge technological solutions to security services for communications surveillance". Google researchers found that RCS Lab had previously partnered with the controversial Italian spy company Hacking Team. The latter failed after being the victim of a serious hack in 2015 that led to the disclosure of numerous internal documents. Google also said it believed the hackers using rcs Lab spyware worked with the victims' internet service provider, which "suggests they had ties to government-backed actors," said Billy Leonard, Google's senior researcher. APPLE'S MOVE Google's report had direct consequences. An Apple spokesperson told Reuters that the company has revoked all known accounts and certificates associated with this hacking campaign. RCS LAB'S DEFENSE OF GOOGLE'S ACCUSATIONS Immediate replication of Rcs Lab. The company has dismissed the allegations saying its products and services comply with European regulations and help law enforcement investigate potential crimes. WHAT THE MILANESE COMPANY DOES As stated on the website, RCS has been operating since 1993 in the world market of services to support investigative activity. The Milanese company deals with the design, production and assistance to the operation of equipment intended for the electronic control of telecommunications equipped with all the functions provided for use in the investigations of the Judicial Authority. RCS has about 200 employees. "The company's core business is the design, production and implementation of software platforms for lawful interception, forensic intelligence and data analysis. In this specific market segment, products and services are provided to government operators, in order to prevent or repress serious crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking, mafia association, child pornography, corruption, and more", specifies Cy4gate in today's note. JUDICIAL AUTHORITIES, LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SECRET SERVICES AMONG CLIENTS There are three categories of customers who rely on the services and products of RCS, as stated on the site. First of all, the Judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies: they essentially use devices and equipment for telephone and environmental monitoring on a large scale. They operate mainly in the Listening Rooms of the 167 Public Prosecutor's Offices. Secondly, the special corps: they develop targeted and specialized activities, operating in a sophisticated technological field, in specific fields of action. And thirdly, the secret and intelligence services: their needs focus on small equipment dedicated to the direct interception of individual targets, the processing and decoding of the data obtained. THE PROPERTY With a share capital of 7,000,000 euros, the company is 100% controlled by Aurora Spa. On March 28, Cy4Gate finalized the acquisition of the Aurora Group, of which RCS Lab is a part. THE SUSPENSION OF RCS FOR THE PALAMARA CASE Finally, the Milanese company had already jumped to the headlines last year for the interception activities related to the case of the former councilor of the CSM Luca Palamara. Just on the day of the communication of interest by Cy4gate for RCS, the latter ended up in the crosshairs of the prosecutor. In the provision of 4 May 2021, the prosecutor Giovanni Melillo ordered "the suspension, with immediate effect, and until further notice, of the assignment to the company Rcs Spa of new assignments for the provision of functional services for the performance of passive and active telematic interception activities" revealed the newspaper La Verità.