The controversial Pegasus spyware has infected the cellphone of six Palestinian citizens, including three activists. NSO claims no responsibility while the source of infection is still unclear, although technically understandable.
6 Palestinian activists have been the target of an Israeli malware by the controversial NSO Group. These is actually the first confirmed cases of human right activists in Palestine being the target of Pegasus malware.
Frontline Defenders, a non-profit organization, released its discoveries yesterday following a cooperative technical study. Other partners in the study were the Citizen Lab, as the first reporter of Pegasus malfunction, and Amnesty. The two institution separately corroborated the findings.
It’s unclear who installed the NSO malware on the Palestinian activists’ cell-phone. The malware allows hackers to see everything a person keeps and performs in his/her cell-phone including online chats. Among the group, 3 persons serve CSOS. Frontline Defenders claims that the three others have no social activity and prefer to stay unknown.
Ubai Aboudi, a US resident and manager of the “Bisan Center for Research and Development” is one of the targets. Israel designated the organisation as a terrorist group just in October.
Aboudi argues that he has no “sense of safety” as a result of the demeaning hack of his cellphone. He says the gadget is always by his side and has images of his most private matters like children. He also stated his wife “didn’t sleep from the idea of having such deep intrusions into our privacy” for at least 72 hours following the breach detection.
Furthermore, the Palestinian activist had serious worries that spy agents may have listened in on his conversations with foreign officials. The scientists found that Pegasus spyware compromised Aboudi’s cellphone in February. Israel denies any role in the NSO group’s spyware malfunction and infection projects.
Israel Pegasus against Palestinian Activists; Who Was the Perpetrator?
Among all the suspects, Israel is the prime one, according to Frontline Defenders, a group working in Ireland. It was first on October 19 when the discovery of the first two incursion occurred. Only 72 hours before that, Tel Aviv designated six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist” organizations. Bisan Center for Research and Development was in the list.
Nevertheless, Frontline Defenders did not categorically suggest that Israel was behind the intrusion. The institution, however, was curious about the order of event that led to the discovery.
Ghassan Halaika and Salah Hammouri are the two other Palestinian targets of Pegasus spyware. The former is a scholar at Al-Haq civil organization and the latter is a lawyer are Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights association. Al-Haq has asked the United Nations to look into the allegations. “We call on the United Nations to launch an investigation to disclose the party that stood behind using this program on the phones of human rights activists, a move that put their lives at risk,” Reuters quoted from an Al-Haq researcher yesterday.
Tel Aviv has offered no available document to support the “terrorist” classification for the Palestinian institutions. One organization claims that the move means to deprive them of financing and silence their resistance. General Manager of Addameer urged international solidarity and shelter during a news conference with the six organizations.
Israel’s inability to provide evidence for the allegations further reinforces the theory of its involvement in hack operation. The divulgement of the secret information, obtained through the hack, may backfire in the international community. The Pegasus scandal is getting new dimensions following its use against Palestinian activists. Global activist targets, from France to UAE and Saudi Arabia, may find it easier to identify the perpetrators.