An Israeli spyware was behind a series of attacks against smartphones owned by journalists, politicians and media activists. Khashoggi affiliated are among the targets of the spyware.
Based on a report by 17 media organisations, an Israeli spyware attacked smartphones owned by journalists. The report says the spyware was successful in hacking at least 37 cellphones. the cellphone belonged to media activists, political figures, and activists in humanitarian issues.
The Washington Post, one of the Israeli spyware targets, reported that the Pegasus spyware, also attacked the smartphones of two people associated with Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was a WP journalist whose murder in Saudi consulate in Turkey shocked the journalism world in 2018.
Washington post says the Israeli spyware targeted the two women both before and after the Khashoggi murder. NSO Group in Israel has licensed the Pegasus spyware.
An even worse case occurred to The Guardian. The outlet reported that the analysis showed pervasive and ongoing abuse of NSO’s hacking software. The Guardian characterized the spyware as an infection to smartphones to allow for the removal of texts, pictures, and emails. Recording the calls and the covert activation of mics was among other activities of the Israeli spyware.
Forbidden Stories led the activism against the Israeli spyware in Paris. NSO rejected all the allegation by the 17 media organisations in a statement.
“The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the ‘unidentified sources’ have supplied information that has no factual basis and are far from reality,” part of NSO statement said.
NSO, however, failed to provide details about its software’ attack. Besides, the company is responsible about the misuse of the products that it supplied to unknown parties.
The probe didn’t identify the parties or reasons behind the attacks. NSO claims that their solution is solely for official administrative intelligence. The company claims that law enforcement organisations use the software to employ in the battle against extremism and corruption.
Amnesty International, a human rights organization, condemned “the total absence of oversight” of the software. “Until this company (NSO) and the industry as a whole can show it is capable of respecting human rights, there must be an immediate moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology,” Amnesty said in a statement.
The list of numbers attacked by Israeli spyware was supplied to 17 media organisations by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. It is unclear how the organisations got their hands on the data.
The Washington Post has found no relationship between the numbers. The reporters, however, detected more than a thousand people from more than fifty countries across the world. Several people in the Arab monarchy, more than 60 corporate chiefs, dozens of human rights activists, and around 200 journalists were among the targets.
To this list, we must add hundreds of political and government figures, including prime ministers and leader. Researchers, executives, and officials from Financial Times, CNN, New York Times, Economist, Associated Press, and Reuters are in the list.
Lauren Easton, director of Associated press Media Relations, says “we are deeply troubled to learn that two AP journalists, along with journalists from many news organizations, are among those who may have been targeted by Pegasus spyware.”
The role of Israeli spyware in spying people close to Khashoggi before his death rings a bell about secret intelligence cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia. More documents and evidences might clarify new dimensions in Khashoggi murder and similar case.