The US government warns of commercial spyware attacks and has given tips to prevent infections from such surveillance tools. However, users should behave as if their device has been compromised. According to the warning, commercial spyware is offered by both individuals and companies and used for spying on journalists, dissidents and other persons.
“Freedom of speech is under attack. Journalists, dissidents and others are exposed worldwide to arbitrary and unlawful digital surveillance, ” the U.S. State Department tweeted.
According to Secretary of State Uzra Zeya, freedom of speech is a human right and it is important that people know how to protect themselves from commercial surveillance tools.
Infecting systems with spyware occurs both over Wi-Fi and mobile data connections and in some cases does not require interaction from the device owner. Once active, the spyware can collect location data, eavesdrop on phone calls and other audio, and access instant messages, files, and browsing history.
The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) have now published a document in which they advise to prevent attacks with commercial spyware, such as regularly installing updates, not opening suspicious links and attachments, regularly restarting the phone, using reliable virtual private networks, always carrying the phone with them, disabling geolocation and covering the camera.
“Although these steps reduce risks, they still exist. It is always safest to behave as if the phone has been compromised, so be careful with sensitive content, ” the US government said.