Spyware Targets Phones of Dozens of Al-Jazeera Journalists. According to a cybersecurity watchdog, spyware is likely an attack linked to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The spyware hits the personal information of 36 journalists, producers, anchors and executives at Al-Jazeera.
According to the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, the malware was sent back to the Israel-based NSO Group, which has been widely condemned for selling spyware to the governments. The spyware that was infected does not need the user to take any action on the phone. It just automatically entered into the phone without getting noticed by the users.
Spyware Targets Phones of Dozens of Al-Jazeera Journalists
It was the largest concentration of phone hacks targeting a single organization that occurred in July. It was just some weeks before the Trump administration announced the normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE, the archival to Qatar.
UAE and Saudi authorities did not respond to any of the comment. On the other hand, NSO Group cast doubt on Citizen Lab’s accusations in a statement but said
“It was unable to comment on a report that we have not yet seen.” The firm provides technology for the sole purpose of enabling governmental law enforcement agencies to tackle serious organized crime and counterterrorism. Nevertheless, when we receive credible evidence of misuse, we take all necessary steps in accordance with our product misuse investigation procedure in order to review the allegations. NSO does not identify its customers.
According to some reports, NSO’s spyware has repeatedly been found deployed to hack journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and dissidents. It is said that the spyware was implicated in the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He was dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 and his body has never been found. Several alleged targets of the spyware, including a close friend of Khashoggi and several Mexican civil society figures, sued NSO in an Israeli court over the hacking.
The NSO Group’s software, known as Pegasus, is designed to bypass detection and mask its activity. The malware infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data. Moreover, it also controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras and allows hackers to watch face to face meetings.