Apple Inc AAPL and Alphabet Inc GOOG GOOGL Android smartphones in Italy and Kazakhstan became spyware targets, a Google report found.
Milan's RCS Lab, which claimed European law enforcement agencies as clients, developed tools to spy on private messages and contacts of the targeted devices.
Google found that the vendors helped increase dangerous hacking tools and arming governments incapable of developing these capabilities in-house.
Apple had revoked all known accounts and certificates associated with this hacking campaign, Reuters reports. Google said it had taken steps to protect users.
RCS Lab denied the allegations and acknowledged compliance with European regulations.
RCS Lab had previously collaborated with the controversial, defunct Italian spy firm to create surveillance software for foreign governments. The firm went bust after becoming a victim of a major hack in 2015.
Google believed hackers using RCS spyware worked with the target's internet service provider, suggesting their links with government-backed actors.
The global industry making spyware for governments came under international scrutiny after multiple governments resorted to Israeli surveillance firm NSO's Pegasus spyware to spy on journalists, activists, and dissidents.
Multiple companies became soft targets for spyware attacks as the world shifted towards online activity due to the pandemic.
Cybersecurity researchers investigating hacks against companies, including Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ: MSFT), NVIDIA Corp NVDA, and Okta Inc (NASDAQ: OKTA), traced the attacks to a 16-year-old living with his mother near Oxford, England.
The U.S. has prioritized cybersecurity funding in retaliation to such attacks.
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