A recent report from Reuters investigation has unraveled what seems to be a highly sophisticated hacking tool called Karma used by a team of former U.S. government intelligence operatives working for the United Arab Emirates to hack into the iPhones of foreign diplomats, rival foreign leaders, and top government officials.
According to the report, the spy tool which was developed by UAE government and former American intelligent officials in 2016 helped to monitor hundreds of selected targets by simply inputting the target’s phone number or email address into the spy tool. Reuter’s investigation also revealed that the Emir of Qatar and a senior Turkish official to a Nobel Peace laureate human-rights activist in Yemen had falling victim to this security breach.
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It was gathered that Karma was used to access the target’s iPhones to obtain photos, emails, text messages, and location details. On whether the Karma spy tool is still in use, former operatives revealed that the security updates to Apple Inc’s iPhone software rendered Karma less effective in 2017.
An interview with Lori Stroud, a former Karma operative who worked at the U.S. National Security Agency, told Reuters of the excitement when Karma was introduced in 2016. “It was like, ‘We have this great new exploit that we just bought. (Ultram) Get us a huge list of targets that have iPhones now,’” she said. “It was like Christmas,” she said.
Meanwhile, UAE government and Apple Inc declined to comment on the issue.