A thorough investigation of Microsoft and Citizen Lab shows Romania is on the map of countries where Spy software QuaDream, similar to Pegasus, hosts its data and operates. This is the conclusion of the investigation and the reports published.
However, Romania is not the only country that helped this software spread to the victims’ smartphones. According to the reports, other countries host QuaDream servers. Among them are some former Eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria and Hungary, but also countries from Asia and the Middle East, like Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
The journalists discovered that QuaDream software, similar to Pegasus, another Israeli software, can record audio calls, the ambience with the mic, and even take pictures with your camera. This enables the governments to spy on their citizens, as QuaDream is sold to governmental entities.
It is not clear if the presence of one server on a country’s territory signals an undergoing operation, meaning the respective government uses the server and software to spy on its citizens, or if it is only a way for the Israeli company to host the software in different places worldwide, to offer a cloud-like functionality.
If we are to speculate on this, it could be both. On the one hand, Romania has all the reasons in the world to operate this kind of software, justifying this action because of the proximity of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, which needs extraordinary measures. On the other hand, Romania is known for its exceptional internet speed and low costs with hosting infrastructure, which is an opportunity for all those looking for stable connections while spying on your device.
QuaDream, under the Israeli name קוודרים בע”מ, was incorporated in August 2016. The company has no website, and there is little public reporting about the company, with a few notable exceptions. Reuters mentioned them in 2022, saying they are a lower-profile company that sells the same sort of spy software which have the same sophisticated hacking technique – known as a “zero-click”
What is zero-click malware? According to specialists, spying software relies on convincing the targeted person to click on a compromised link or file to install itself on their smart device. However, with a zero-click attack, the software can be installed on a device without the victim clicking on any link, which makes the victim unaware of anything malicious until it is too late.
Do you think your government protects your rights? Think again. Hungary, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates are known to abuse spyware to target human rights defenders (HRDs), journalists, and other members of civil society, according to the Citizen Lab report.
There has been no reaction from the Romanian authorities following this new scandal. From our experience with the Romanian Government and authorities, there will be no reaction. The country is notorious for hiding its help to Ukraine for “security reasons”. They won’t disclose any detail on the usage of QuaDream software, as well.
At the end of the day, pandemics, special operations, nuclear threats and World War III are all good reasons for governments to justify purchasing spyware software. The way this software is used is another story and is clearly not under citizens’ control.