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Technology

LINE accounts of 100 Taiwan officials hacked in mass breach

Cyberattack on popular messaging app suspected of using Pegasus spyware

LINE is one of the most used instant messaging apps in Taiwan.   © Reuters

TAIPEI -- Hackers breached LINE messaging accounts belonging to more than 100 officials and political figures in Taiwan, it was learned Wednesday.

The hacked accounts include those of bureaucrats, senior party administrators and military officers. The Taiwanese government has confirmed the breach and has initiated an investigation.

The hack disabled a default privacy setting called Letter Sealing, which provides end-to-end encryption of messages. Japan-based LINE is a popular messaging app in Taiwan, and the personal data breach potentially affected a multitude of people.

LINE immediately took measures to safeguard users after it detected anomalies in the system, according to Wednesday's statement by its Taiwanese arm. The local unit added that it has submitted a report to the Taiwanese government.

The hackers are suspected of using the military-grade spyware called Pegasus developed by the Israel-based NSO Group, according to reports.

The technology can infect a phone just by having the victim receive a message, with no need to click on a link. Pegasus has been known to intercept phone calls and monitor the movements of infected smartphone users around the clock.

Reports emerged last week that a number of high-profile people across the world were hacked using the spyware, with a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers leaked.

An international group of media outlets reviewed the list and found notable journalists and politicians, such as French President Emmanuel Macron. It has not been confirmed at this time if the hackers had used Pegasus.

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