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Pegasus Spyware Creator NSO Group Has Large Presence in Europe With 22 Active Contracts: Report

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 11 August 2022

Israeli technology firm NSO Group, which grabbed global attention, including in India, amid allegations of misuse of its controversial spyware Pegasus, apparently has a large presence in the Europe Union with at least 22 contracts covering 12 of the 27 member states, a media report said on Wednesday. Pegasus spyware and competing products make it possible to infect the cell phone of the victim of the surveillance, and afterwards enable the operator to eavesdrop on conversations, read apps with encrypted messages, and provide total access to contacts and files on the device.

The Pegasus spyware enables eavesdropping in real time on what is taking place around the cellphone by operating the camera and the microphone.

Representatives of the European Parliament Committee of Inquiry on Pegasus spyware recently visited Israel and learned from NSO personnel that the company has active contracts with 12 European Union members, daily Ha’aretz reported.

The replies of the Israeli cyber warfare company to the committee’s questions, which were obtained by the newspaper, reveal that the company is now working with 22 security and enforcement organisations in the EU, it added.

The company’s representatives in their conversations and exchanges with PTI have maintained that their spyware is used by “government clients” to target terrorists and other serious crimes.

Members of the European Parliament Committee of Inquiry who came to Israel are said to have been surprised to discover contracts with their countries of origin.

The Committee’s representatives visited Israel in recent weeks “to learn in-depth about the local cyber warfare industry”, and held discussions with NSO employees, representatives of the Israeli Defence Ministry and local experts.

Among the committee members was a Catalan legislator whose cell phone was hacked by an NSO customer, the report noted.

“The committee was established after the publication of Project Pegasus last year, and its objective is to create pan-European regulations for the acquisition, import and use of cyber warfare software such as Pegasus,” the report said.

“But while committee members were in Israel, and particularly since their return to Brussels, it was revealed that Europe also has a well-developed cyber warfare industry – and many of its customers are European countries,” it said.

The EU legislators were tasked to know the identity of NSO customers in Europe at present and were surprised to discover that most of the EU countries had contracts with the company: 14 countries have done business with NSO in the past and at least 12 are still using Pegasus for lawful interception of mobile calls, as per NSO’s response to the committee’s questions.

In response to the legislators’ questions, the company explained that at present NSO works with 22 “end users” – security and intelligence organisations and law enforcement authorities – in 12 European countries.

In some of the countries there is more than one client as they are with operating organisations, the report said.

In the past, as per NSO’s submission, the company worked with two additional countries with whom the ties have now been severed. NSO did not disclose which countries are active customers and with which two countries the contract was frozen, it said.

NSO reportedly did not respond to Haaretz’s request for comment.

Israel, earlier in January this year, distanced itself from the controversy triggered by the blacklisting of the NSO Group after allegations of illegal use of its Pegasus spyware to target government officials, activists and journalists globally, saying that it is a private company and it has nothing to do with the policies of the Israeli government.

“NSO is a private company, it is not a governmental project and therefore even if it is designated, it has nothing to do with the policies of the Israeli government,” Israel’s then Foreign Minister and now Prime Minister Yair Lapid had said at a press conference days after the company was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce.

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NavIC Rollout: No Timeline Fixed For Implementing Indigenous GPS Alternative, MeitY Says

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By ANI | Updated: 27 September 2022

The central government has said that it has held a meeting with mobile manufacturers to discuss the compatibility of the home-grown global positioning system — NavIC — in smartphones, but no timeline was fixed for its implementation.

This clarification by the government came on Monday after media reports suggested India was looking to mandate its indigenous navigation system “within months”.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said the meeting was “consultative”.

“A media report has claimed citing a meeting that mobile cos were asked to make smartphones compatible with NavIC within months. This is to clarify: (1) No timeline has been fixed. (2) The cited meeting was consultative; and (3) the issue is under discussion with all stakeholders,” the Ministry of Electronics and IT said in a tweet late on Monday night.

What is NavIC? How is it different from its previous version IRNSS?

NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) is the name of the independent stand-alone navigation satellite system of India.

This system was earlier known as IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System).

The name NavIC was coined by the Prime Minister of India on the occasion of the completion of the constellation in April 2016.

Which are the navigation satellite systems operational currently in the world?

Presently, there are four global systems, GPS from the US, GLONASS from Russia, Galileo from European Union and BeiDou from China.

In addition, there are two regional systems, NavIC from India and QZSS from Japan.

What is the need for NavIC when already GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou are operating?

GPS and GLONASS are operated by defence agencies of the respective nations. It is possible that the civilian service can be degraded or denied.

NavIC is an independent regional system over the Indian region and does not depend on other systems for providing position service within the service region.

It is fully under the control of the Government of India.

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Apple to hike App Store prices in several countries from Oct

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By: Reuters, Updated September 20, 2022

Apple Inc said on Monday prices of apps and in-app purchases on its App Store will increase in several countries including Japan, Malaysia and all territories that use the euro currency, from next month.

The new prices, excluding auto-renewable subscriptions, will be effective as early as Oct. 5, Apple said in a blog post.

These changes will also reflect new regulations for Apple in Vietnam to collect and remit applicable taxes, being value added tax (VAT) and corporate income tax (CIT) at 5% rates respectively, the company added.

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Apple plans to use latest chip tech by Taiwan’s TSMC in iPhones, Macs – Nikkei

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By: Reuters, September 14, 2022

Sept 14 (Reuters) – Apple Inc is planning to use an updated version of Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC’s (2330.TW) latest chip producing technology in iPhones and Macbooks next year, the Nikkei Asia newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The A17 mobile processor, which is currently under development, will be mass-produced using TSMC’s N3E chipmaking tech, expected to be available in the second half of next year, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The A17 will be used in the premium entry in the iPhone lineup slated for release in 2023, it added.

Apple declined to comment, while TSMC did not immediately respond to Reuters request for a comment.

The current iPhone model has an A15 processor chip and in the recent Apple launch event, the company said iPhone 14 Pro models will also have the same.

The chipmaker controls about 54% of the global market for contractually produced chips, supplying firms including Apple and Qualcomm Inc.

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New Apple iPhone will be available in Russia, trade minister says

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By: Reuters, September 8, 2022

Sept 8 (Reuters) – Russians will have the chance to buy the new Apple iPhone 14 despite the U.S. tech company having left the country thanks to Moscow’s parallel import scheme, a senior government official told the RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday.

Russia announced the scheme in March when it authorised retailers to import products from abroad without the trademark owner’s permission. read more

Asked whether the new iPhone, unveiled by Apple on Wednesday, would be imported under the scheme, Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov said: “Why not? If consumers want to buy these phones, yes. There will be the opportunity.”

Apple halted new product sales in Russia in March, a week after Russia invaded Ukraine, though the iPhone, MacBook and other Apple goods have remained available in Russian stores as retailers sell down their remaining stock of old models and get hold of newly released devices through the import scheme.

Russian mobile network MTS on Thursday morning was already selling the new iPhone 14 models on pre-order. Prices start from 84,990 roubles ($1,398) for the 128GB version.

MTS said delivery could take up to 120 days and it retained the right to cancel orders if it faced difficulties importing the products.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Manturov, who is also a deputy prime minister, said last month that the scheme, which covers Western products ranging from luxury clothes to cars, could reach $16 billion in value this year, equivalent to around 4% of Russia’s 2021 imports.

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Apple to appeal Brazil sales ban of iPhone without charger

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By: Reuters, September 7, 2022

SAO PAULO, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Apple Inc said on Tuesday it will appeal a Brazilian order banning it from selling iPhones without a battery charger, pushing back on claims that the company provides an incomplete product to consumers.

The Justice Ministry fined Apple 12.275 million reais ($2.38 million) and ordered the company to cancel sales of the iPhone 12 and newer models, in addition to suspending the sale of any iPhone model that does not come with a charger.

In the order, published on Tuesday in the country’s official gazette, the ministry argued that the iPhone was lacking a essential component in a “deliberate discriminatory practice against consumers.”

The authorities rejected Apple’s argument that the practice had the purpose of reducing carbon emissions, saying there is no evidence that selling the smartphone without a charger offers environmental protections.

Apple said it would continue to work with Brazilian consumer protection agency Senacon in order to “resolve their concerns,” while saying it would appeal the decision.

“We have already won several court rulings in Brazil on this matter and we are confident that our customers are aware of the various options for charging and connecting their devices,” Apple said.

The order comes a day before Apple is expected to announce its new iPhone model.

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India considers restricting sale of sub-$150 phones by Chinese firms, Bloomberg reports

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By reuters | Updated: 29 August 2022

NEW DELHI, Aug 8 (Reuters) – India is seeking to restrict Chinese companies from its sub-$150 phone market in a bid to revive the prospects of domestic players, Bloomberg News reported on Monday, citing unidentified sources.

The move would be a blow to Chinese companies such as Xiaomi , according to the report. The plans coincide with rising concerns in India about Chinese brands undercutting local smartphone makers, it added.

It is unclear if the Indian government will announce policies or use informal channels to execute the block on Chinese smartphone makers, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Chinese firms account for a major chunk of entry-level smartphones that are popular among users shifting away from traditional devices in India, which is the second largest mobile market in the world.

Indian firms such as Lava and MicroMax rapidly gained popularity after their launch over a decade ago, but have since lost market share to stiff competition from Chinese players.

Many Chinese companies have struggled to do business in India due to political tensions following a border clash in 2020. India cited security concerns in banning more than 300 Chinese apps, and has also tightened rules for Chinese companies investing in India.

Xiaomi and rival Vivo are being investigated by India’s financial crime fighting agency for alleged illegal remittances and money laundering. Both deny any wrongdoing.

The companies and the Indian government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

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