Austrian spy firm accused by Microsoft says hack tool was aimed at EU states

A Microsoft logo is seen on a pop-up site at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, New York July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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LONDON, July 29 (Reuters) – An Austrian company which Microsoft (MSFT.O) claims has created malware that has been detected on the computer systems of some of its customers in at least three countries, said its tool spyware “Subzero” was for official use. use in EU states only.

On Wednesday, Microsoft said the company, DSIRF, had deployed the spyware, or spyware — capable of accessing confidential information such as passwords or login credentials — to an unspecified number of banks, law firms and unidentified strategic consultants. Read more

“Subzero is software from the Austrian company DSIRF GesmbH, which was developed exclusively for official use in EU states. It is not offered, sold, or made available for commercial use,” a DSIRF said in an emailed statement.

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“In view of the facts described by Microsoft, the DSIRF resolutely refutes the impression of having abused the Subzero software”, he added.

It was unclear which EU member state governments, if any, were using the tool. DSIRF did not respond to requests for additional comment.

The Austrian Interior Ministry told local news agency APA on Friday that it was investigating Microsoft’s allegations. The ministry did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

Spyware received increased attention in Europe and the United States after Pegasus, a spyware developed by Israel’s NSO, was used by governments to spy on journalists and dissidents.

DSIRF said it commissioned an independent expert to investigate the issues raised by Microsoft and contacted the US tech giant for “collaboration on the matter”.

Microsoft declined to comment further.

In its Thursday blog post, the company said DSIRF had developed four so-called “zero-day exploits”, serious software flaws that are of great value to hackers and spies because they work even when the software is up to date.

DSIRF listed a handful of former business customers as references in an internal presentation promoting Subzero that was published by German news site Netzpolitik last year.

Two of the companies named in that presentation, SIGNA Retail and Dentons, told Reuters they had not used the spyware and had not consented to be a reference for the company.

The DSIRF did not respond to a request for comment on this subject.

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Reporting by James Pearson Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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