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No 10 suspected of being target of NSO spyware attack, Boris Johnson ‘told’ | Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has been told his Downing Street office has been targeted with “multiple” suspected infections using Pegasus, the sophisticated hacking software that can turn a phone into a remote listening device, it was claimed on Monday.

A report released by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto said the United Arab Emirates was suspected of orchestrating spyware attacks on No 10 in 2020 and 2021.

Pegasus is the hacking software – or spyware – developed, marketed and licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli firm NSO Group. It has the capability to infect phones running either iOS or Android operating systems.

Citizen Lab added there had also been suspected attacks on the Foreign Office over the same two years that were also associated with Pegasus operators linked to the UAE – as well as India, Cyprus and Jordan.

The researchers, considered among the world’s leading experts in detecting digital attacks, announced they had taken the rare step of notifying Whitehall of the attack as it “believes that our actions can reduce harm”.

However, they were not able to identify the specific individuals within No 10 and the Foreign Office who are suspected of having been hacked.

In a statement, Citizen Lab said: “We confirm that in 2020 and 2021 we observed and notified the government of the United Kingdom of multiple suspected instances of Pegasus spyware infections within official UK networks. These included: the prime minister’s office (10 Downing Street) [and] the Foreign and Commonwealth Office …

“The suspected infections relating to the FCO were associated with Pegasus operators that we link to the UAE, India, Cyprus and Jordan. The suspected infection at the UK prime minister’s office was associated with a Pegasus operator we link to the UAE.”

Boris Johnson outside No 10 Downing Street.
The allegations will raise serious questions for Boris Johnson about a possible security breach. Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

The Biden administration took the extraordinary step of placing NSO on a US blacklist last November, saying it had evidence the company had sold surveillance spyware to foreign governments that had used it for “transnational repression”. At the time, an NSO spokesperson said it was ‘“dismayed by the decision”.

The allegations will raise significant questions about a possible national security breach at the highest levels of the British government.

The governments of the UAE, India, Cyprus and Jordan have been approached for comment.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on security matters.”

An NSO spokesperson said: “NSO continues to be targeted by a number of politically motivated advocacy organisations like Citizen Lab and Amnesty to produce inaccurate and unsubstantiated reports based on vague and incomplete information.

“We have repeatedly cooperated with governmental investigations, where credible allegations merit. However, information raised regarding these allegations are, yet again, false and could not be related to NSO products for technological and contractual reasons.”

The Pegasus project, a collaborative investigation into NSO that included the Guardian, the Wire, Le Monde and the Washington Post, revealed dozens of cases last year in which NSO’s Pegasus was used by government clients, from Saudi Arabia to Mexico, to target dissidents and journalists. The work was among the recipients of the prestigious 2021 George Polk awards in journalism.

NSO is regulated by the Israeli defence ministry and sells Pegasus spyware to governments around the world. When it is successfully deployed against a target, Pegasus can infect any phone. It can intercept phone calls, view photographs, track an individual’s location and turn a phone into a remote listening device.

Pegasus: the spyware technology that threatens democracy – video

The Citizen Lab director, Ron Deibert, said he believed the infections could have been related to FCO devices located abroad. Explaining his reasoning for alerting Johnson, he explained that the UK “is currently in the midst of several ongoing legislative and judicial efforts relating to regulatory questions surrounding cyber policy”. Therefore, he added “we believe that it is critically important that such efforts are allowed to unfold free from the undue influence of spyware”.

The UK development comes months after an investigation into NSO found that the mobile phone of a serving French minister, François de Rugy, showed digital traces of activity associated with Pegasus spyware. His details appeared on a leaked database, which also included mobile numbers for the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and most of his 20-strong cabinet, along with the then prime minister, Édouard Philippe.

In response, an NSO Group spokesperson said Macron and other French officials on the list “are not and never have been Pegasus targets”. They added: “It is not a list of targets or potential targets of NSO’s customers.”

In October last year, a UK court found that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai used Pegasus to hack the phone of his ex-wife Princess Haya and five of her associates.

The court found that the hacking of Haya and her associates, including Fiona Shackleton, who sits in the House of Lords, occurred while the former couple were locked in court proceedings in connection to the welfare of their two children.

Johnson’s government was accused by some MPs last November of prioritising trade agreements over national security in its handling of surveillance abuses on British soil by governments using Pegasus.

In November, a letter to the prime minister signed by 10 MPs and peers called on the government to end its cybersecurity programmes with countries that are known to have used NSO spyware to target dissidents, journalists and lawyers – and impose sanctions on NSO.

It also called for the suspension of all UK spyware licences and cybersecurity contracts with Gulf nations implicated in cyber-attacks in the UK.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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