Israeli spyware found on cellphones of journalists and politicians

A politician checking his cell phone. (Shutterstock)

There's a lot of upset among the journalism fraternity that many journalists have been spied on, with Israeli spyware no less. This spying extends to news organisations such as CNN and AP.  The journalists who work there thought they were immune to such intimation.

Only people who worked for "less reputable" Middle Eastern organisations were subject to such spying, was the main way of thinking. I spent 8.5 years in Dubai, working for Khaleej Times and then Mergermarket. I was tapped for all that time, and, for all I know, possibly followed too.

It is certainly a violation of privacy to have spyware installed on cell-phones, but there's little that can be done about it, until this behaviour becomes public knowledge.

Below is an article revealing the use of Israeli spyware to track journalists and politicians.

Israeli spyware is found on cellphones of journalists including at New York Times, CNN and AP, as well as members of royal families and politicians around the world

  • Software, called Pegasus, was developed by Israel's NSO group, a private firm
  • List of more than 50,000 phone numbers included journalists and politicians
  • Women on list close to murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi

By Rory Tingle For Dailymail.com and Afp

Published: 19:00, 18 July 2021 | Updated: 23:49, 18 July 2021

Activists, journalists and politicians around the world have been spied on using cellphone malware developed by a private Israeli firm, it emerged Sunday, igniting fears of widespread privacy and rights abuses.

The use of the software, called Pegasus and developed by Israel's NSO group, was reported on by the Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets who collaborated on an investigation into a data leak.

The leak was of a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016.

One of those targeted was Hanan Elatr, the wife of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by a Saudi hit squad in 2018. Her phone - as well as that of a second female associate - was allegedly targeted before his death.

One of those targeted was Hanan Elatr, the wife of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi

The Pegasus software was sold by Israeli firm NSO to clients who used it to hack the phones of journalists, activists and politicians, reports say

Not all of those numbers on the list were subsequently hacked, and the news outlets with access to the leak said more details about those who were compromised would be released in coming days.

Among the numbers on the list are those of journalists for media organizations around the world including Agence France-Presse, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, the Associated Press, Le Monde, Bloomberg, the Economist, Reuters and Voice of America, the Guardian said.

The use of the software to hack the phones of Al-Jazeera reporters and a Moroccan journalist has been reported previously by Citizen Lab, a research center at the University of Toronto, and Amnesty International.

The list also included the number of a Mexican freelance journalist who was later murdered at a carwash. His phone was never found and it was not clear if it had been hacked.

The Washington Post said numbers on the list also belonged to heads of state and prime ministers, members of Arab royal families, diplomats and politicians, as well as activists and business executives.

The list did not identify which clients had entered the numbers on it. But the reports said many were clustered in 10 countries - Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The leak was of a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016

The Guardian wrote that the investigation suggests 'widespread and continuing abuse' of Pegasus, which NSO says is intended for use against criminals and terrorists.

Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media non-profit organization, initially had access to the leak, which they then shared with media organizations.

NSO, a leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, has previously pledged to police for abuses of its software.

It called the allegations exaggerated and baseless, according to The Washington Post, and would not confirm its clients' identities.

Citizen Lab reported in December that dozens of journalists at Qatar's Al-Jazeera network had their mobile communications intercepted by sophisticated electronic surveillance.

Amnesty International reported in June of last year that Moroccan authorities used NSO's Pegasus software to insert spyware onto the cellphone of Omar Radi, a journalist convicted over a social media post.

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Wednesday, 04 August 2021