Some Italian and Kazakhstani phones were hacked by the Milan-based RCS labs, according to a report from Google‘s Threat Analysis Group and Project Zero Vulnerability analysis team. 

The software company’s website claims several European countries as part of its clientele and has developed tools for spying on messages and contacts on the targeted devices, according to Google

The findings come at a time when European and American regulators are contemplating introducing new legislation about the sale and use of spyware. According to Google, vendors like RCS were encouraging the spread of “dangerous hacking tools” and were arming government’s who hadn’t developed the capacity to build them at home. 

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RCS on the other hand said that all of its products and services comply with European rules. In a mail to Reuters, the company said that none of its personnel are a part of the “activities conducted by the relevant customers.”

As espionage and spying becomes more significant, the spyware market has found itself growing as various governments vie for tools that anti-surveillance activists claim are impinging on human rights and civil rights. 

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Last year, the spyware industry came under intense scrutiny after the Israeli surveillance firm, NSO Group was found to have supplied its infamous Pegasus software to various countries which in turn used them to spy on dissidents, journalists and activists. 

The spyware created by RCS Labs isn’t as discreet as Pegasus but can still read messages and passwords, Bill Marczak a security researcher at Citizen Lab, a digital watchdog, told Reuters.

RCS Labs had previously worked with the now-defunct albeit controversial Italian spy firm Hacking Team, which used to create software similar to theirs which was used to tap the phones and computers of foreign companies. Hacking Team went under in 2015 after internal documents of the organisation were leaked.