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Exclusive-iPhone flaw exploited by second Israeli spy firm-sources

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A flaw in Apple’s software exploited by Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group to break into iPhones in 2021 was simultaneously abused by a competing company, according to five people familiar with the matter.

QuaDream, the sources said, is a smaller and lower profile Israeli firm that also develops smartphone hacking tools intended for government clients.

The two rival businesses gained the same ability last year to remotely break into iPhones, according to the five sources, meaning that both firms could compromise Apple phones without an owner needing to open a malicious link. That two firms employed the same sophisticated hacking technique – known as a “zero-click” – shows that phones are more vulnerable to powerful digital spying tools than the industry will admit, one expert said.

“People want to believe they’re secure, and phone companies want you to believe they’re secure. What we’ve learned is, they’re not,” said Dave Aitel, a partner at Cordyceps Systems, a cybersecurity firm.

Experts analyzing intrusions engineered by NSO Group and QuaDream since last year believe the two companies used very similar software exploits, known as ForcedEntry, to hijack iPhones.

An exploit is computer code designed to leverage a set of specific software vulnerabilities, giving a hacker unauthorized access to data.

The analysts believed NSO and QuaDream’s exploits were similar because they leveraged many of the same vulnerabilities hidden deep inside Apple’s instant messaging platform and used a comparable approach to plant malicious software on targeted devices, according to three of the sources.

Bill Marczak, a security researcher with digital watchdog Citizen Lab who has been studying both companies’ hacking tools, told Reuters that QuaDream’s zero-click capability seemed “on par” with NSO’s.

Reuters made repeated attempts to reach QuaDream for comment, sending messages to executives and business partners. A Reuters journalist last week visited QuaDream’s office, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, but no one answered the door. Israeli lawyer Vibeke Dank, whose email was listed on QuaDream’s corporate registration form, also did not return repeated messages.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on QuaDream or say what if any action they planned to take with regard to the company.

ForcedEntry is viewed as “one of the most technically sophisticated exploits” ever captured by security researchers.

So similar were the two versions of ForcedEntry that when Apple fixed the underlying flaws in September 2021 it rendered both NSO and QuaDream’s spy software ineffective, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In a written statement, an NSO spokeswoman said the company “did not cooperate” with QuaDream but that “the cyber intelligence industry continues to grow rapidly globally.”

Apple sued NSO Group over ForcedEntry in November, claiming that NSO had violated Apple’s user terms and services agreement. The case is still in its early stages.

In its lawsuit, Apple said that it “continuously and successfully fends off a variety of hacking attempts.” NSO has denied any wrongdoing.

Spyware companies have long argued they sell high-powered technology to help governments thwart national security threats. But human rights groups and journalists have repeatedly documented the use of spyware to attack civil society, undermine political opposition, and interfere with elections.

Apple notified thousands of ForcedEntry targets in November, making elected officials, journalists, and human rights workers around the world realize they had been placed under surveillance.

In Uganda, for example, NSO’s ForcedEntry was used to spy on U.S. diplomats, Reuters reported .

In addition to the Apple lawsuit, Meta’s WhatsApp is also litigating over the alleged abuse of its platform. In November, NSO was put on a trade blacklist by the U.S. Commerce Department over human rights concerns.

Unlike NSO, QuaDream has kept a lower profile despite serving some of the same government clients. The company has no website touting its business and employees have been told to keep any reference to their employer off social media, according to a person familiar with the company.

REIGN

QuaDream was founded in 2016 by Ilan Dabelstein, a former Israeli military official, and by two former NSO employees, Guy Geva and Nimrod Reznik, according to Israeli corporate records and two people familiar with the business. Reuters could not reach the three executives for comment.

Like NSO’s Pegasus spyware, QuaDream’s flagship product – called REIGN – could take control of a smartphone, scooping up instant messages from services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal, as well as emails, photos, texts and contacts, according to two product brochures from 2019 and 2020 which were reviewed by Reuters.

REIGN’s “Premium Collection” capabilities included the “real time call recordings”, “camera activation – front and back” and “microphone activation”, one brochure said.

Prices appeared to vary. One QuaDream system, which would have given customers the ability to launch 50 smartphone break-ins per year, was being offered for $2.2 million exclusive of maintenance costs, according to the 2019 brochure. Two people familiar with the software’s sales said the price for REIGN was typically higher.

Over the years, QuaDream and NSO Group employed some of the same engineering talent, according to three people familiar with the matter. Two of those sources said the companies did not collaborate on their iPhone hacks, coming up with their own ways to take advantage of vulnerabilities.

Several of QuaDream’s buyers have also overlapped with NSO’s, four of the sources said, including Saudi Arabia and Mexico – both of whom have been accused of misusing spy software to target political opponents.

One of QuaDream’s first clients was the Singaporean government, two of the sources said, and documentation reviewed by Reuters shows the company’s surveillance technology was pitched to the Indonesian government as well. Reuters couldn’t determine if Indonesia became a client.

Mexican, Singaporean, Indonesian and Saudi officials did not return messages seeking comment about QuaDream.

 

(Reporting by Christopher Bing and Raphael Satter in Washington. Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Nir Elias in Ramat Gan, Israel, Dan Williams in Jerusalem, and Michele Kambas in Nicosia, Cyprus contributed reporting. Editing by Chris Sanders and Edward Tobin)

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Canada Day Ottawa: Ottawa police prepare for festivities, possible protests | CTV News – CTV News Ottawa

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Police officers in cruisers and on bicycles are patrolling downtown Ottawa and the Parliamentary Precinct today, as the city prepares for Canada Day festivities and possible protests against COVID-19 mandates and the federal government.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit downtown Ottawa and the LeBreton Flats area over the next few days to celebrate Canada’s 155th birthday. Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will also complete his cross-country march at the National War Memorial, as he protests the remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

At LeBreton Flats, there was a very strong security presence Friday morning as preparations continued for the Canadian Heritage Canada Day festivities. The Canada Day daytime show begins at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, while the evening show begins at 7:30 p.m. 

Ottawa police interim Chief Steve Bell says the increased police presence will remain in place through the weekend.

“We’ve talked for a number of days about all the planning and preparation we have and the expectation of people attending,” Bell told CTV News Ottawa. “I think what you’re seeing is those plans coming into action and us being out there and vigilant around who’s attending, and trying to make sure people that understand it’s a safe place on Canada Day and you should come down and enjoy the festivities.”

On Wednesday, officers stopped a small convoy of vehicles in the area of Pinecrest Road and Hwy. 417 and several tickets were issued.   Bell defended the actions of officers to stop vehicles in the capital region.

“We actually have good legal grounds for the plans we’ve put in place. We make sure that we stay on legal grounds because that’s very important as a police service,” Bell said. “We’re comfortable with the posture we’re taking and the actions officers are taking, and it’s all in the name that we ensure public safety and we can have a good, festive Canada Day.”

JAMES TOPP ARRIVES IN OTTAWA

Canadian Forces veteran James Topp will finish his cross-country march to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates this evening at the National War Memorial.

The final leg of his journey began at 1811 Robertson Road at 10 a.m. Topp is scheduled to arrive at Hog’s Back Park at 1:30 p.m. and finish his march at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at 6 p.m.

“We have been in contact with Mr. Topp and his group and have plans in place to ensure that he can safely and lawfully move from the west end of the city down to the Parliament Hill buildings,” interim chief Bell said on Monday.

Speaking in Ottawa last week, Topp said a number of groups that formed out of the Freedom Convoy had come together to protest the federal government.

“What I would like to see with the establishment of C3 – the Canadian Citizens Coalition is for us to have further conversations about the way forward, about the way of the future, of what we see Canada being and becoming,” said Topp.

SNOWBIRDS 

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will not be taking part in Canada Day festivities in Ottawa.

The Royal Canadian Air Force announced the Snowbirds fly-past over Ottawa on Friday has been cancelled, following a problem with the aircraft’s emergency ejection parachute that grounded the fleet for nearly a week.

PARLIAMENT HILL

Visitors to Parliament Hill will need to pass through a security checkpoint, and be searched by a Parliamentary Protective Service officer.

A sign on the fence along Wellington Street says several items are restricted, including tables, speakers, barbecues, aerosols, weapons, fireworks and sporting equipment.

MOTOR VEHICLE CONTROL ZONE

A motor vehicle control zone remains in effect around the Parliamentary Precinct, downtown Ottawa and roads near LeBreton Flats.

The zone stretches from Colonel By Drive/Sussex Drive in the east, Booth Street in the west, Laurier Avenue in the south and Wellington Street in the north, along with the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway and Albert Street west of Booth Street.

The roads in the motor vehicle control zone are not closed today; however, motor vehicles taking part in any form of demonstration, event or protest will not be permitted in the area. There will be no on-street parking or stopping on roads in the control zone.

The city of Ottawa says a motor vehicle control zone will be in effect from Wednesday at 8 a.m. until July 4 at 6 a.m. (City of Ottawa/Twitter)

TICKETING AND TOWING VEHICLES

Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services says officers are out ensuring all parking regulations are observed in the motor vehicle control zone.

“All vehicles found failing to observe the no-stopping zones will be ticketed and towed. Parking time limits and no parking zones outside the centre core will also be strictly enforced,” the city said.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Ottawa Bylaw says 120 parking tickets were issued and 28 vehicles were towed in the vehicle control zone.

Ottawa Bylaw will also be focusing on the following bylaws to ensure residents and visitors obey the rules over the Canada Day weekend.

  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle or other noise, including speakers or shouting
  • No unnecessary motor-vehicle idling
  • No encumbering a sidewalk or roadway by any means, including setting up tents or other illegal structures
  • No public urination and defecation
  • No open air fires
  • No littering
  • Discharging of fireworks – contravening any regulations under Fireworks By-Law.

DOWNTOWN PARKING

Ottawa City Hall and the underground municipal parking facility will be closed all weekend.

City Hall and the parking structure will be closed from 5 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. on Monday.

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Tips for starting online betting safely

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Sports betting has been part of the entertainment world for a long time now, but it has become even more popular now. This is because of the internet and especially online betting. It has increased the number of opportunities for betting and now people don’t need to leave their homes to have fun.

 

The internet has some of the most popular options such as NFL Week 1 odds and more rare possibilities. Because of this diversity, you can be sure that you can find an option fitting your taste. But if you have never bet on sports online before, you need to know how to do so safely. This article will help you with this.

There are many different interesting sports to follow

The world is full of different types of sports, which means that there will be one that will entertain you. Even if you are only looking for Canadian sports, there are still many different fantastic possibilities. This obviously means that there are also plenty of different possibilities regarding betting as well.

 

Even though there are many exciting opportunities for betting, you need to only bet on sports that you are familiar with. If you know everything there is to know about the sport, it will be easier for you to place your bets. Therefore it’s a much safer way to bet. If you are interested in specifically betting on a game that you don’t know too well yet, you should do some research.

Choose a safe betting site

Not only do you need to bet in a safe way, but you also need to choose a safe betting site. There are many different options when it comes to different betting sites, so you have a lot of options to choose from.

 

If you don’t know how to recognize safe betting sites, you don’t have to worry. There are plenty of different guidebooks specifically about this online. You can also use different websites that introduce popular and safe betting sites for the players. This will make the search process much easier.

What is the best betting site for you?

As we said, there are many different betting sites. Not only do you need to choose a safe option, but you also need to find one that is the best for you. And how can you know which is the best for you?

 

Simply by thinking about what you are looking for. It doesn’t matter what type of betting site you choose, as long as it fits you and it’s safe, it’s a good choice.

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Spouse of gunman to testify at N.S. shooting hearings but won’t be cross-examined

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HALIFAX — The spouse of the gunman in the Nova Scotia mass shooting will testify mid-July before a public inquiry, but she won’t face direct questions from lawyers representing victims’ families.

Lisa Banfield, on the advice of her lawyers, had initially refused to speak under oath at the hearings into the 22 killings carried out by her spouse on April 18-19, 2020.

However, she changed her stance after a criminal charge laid against her for supplying ammunition to the killer was referred to restorative justice.

The public inquiry said today in a news release that due to Banfield’s status as a “survivor of the perpetrator’s violence,” only the inquiry’s lawyer will be asking her questions during her July 15 appearance.

Josh Bryson, a lawyer for the family of victims Peter and Joy Bond, says his clients are losing faith in the credibility of the inquiry.

Bryson says the families’ lawyers have been polite and respectful throughout the hearings, adding that it is frustrating to be denied the opportunity to pose direct questions to key witnesses.

“Cross-examination can make or break a witness’s evidence … You test the evidence in a meaningful and trauma-informed way,” he said in an interview today.

The inquiry has also refused to allow cross-examination of Staff Sgt. Brian Rehill and Staff Sgt. Andy O’Brien, who were the first RCMP managers overseeing the response to the shootings.

Emily Hill, senior commission counsel, says participatinglawyers can submit their questions in advance and can provide follow-up questions to the inquiry’s lawyer to ask during the single day set aside to hear Banfield.

Banfield’s evidence could provide further information about the killer’s personal history and state of mind and may also be key to the commission’s mandate to examine the “role of gender-based and intimate-partner violence” in the killer’s actions.

The inquiry has heard she was the last person with the gunman before he went on his rampage. The killer allegedly assaulted her and confined her in a car, but she managed to escape. She fled into the woods and hid before emerging the next morning and telling police the killer was driving a replica RCMP vehicle.

The RCMP have said from the outset that Banfield wasn’t aware of her spouse’s intentions when she provided him with ammunition, but they proceeded with charges alleging she, her brother and her brother-in-law had illegally transferred ammunition to the killer.

During a briefing this morning, the commission confirmed that senior RCMP officers, including Supt. Darren Campbell, Chief Supt. Chris Leather, assistant commissioner Lee Bergerman and Commissioner Brenda Lucki will testify in July and August — under oath and subject to cross-examination.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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