It emerged, kindling fears of widespread privacy and rights violations that activists, reporters and lawmakers around the globe have been spied on using cellphone malware developed by a private Israeli firm.
The use of the software, called Pegasus and developed by Israel’s NSO group was exposed in a data leak containing 50,000 phone numbers that belong to people targeted by NSO’s clients since 2016.
Amongst those clients are some of the world’s most repressive government regimes, including Hungary, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco.
One of those targeted was Hanan Elatr, the wife of Saudi born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by a Saudi hit squad in 2018.
Her phone, as well as that of a second female associate, was allegedly targeted before his death. The leak appeared to confirm Saudi involvement in the murder.
Another key figure on the list was Roula Khalaf, who became the Financial Times first female editor, and according to a newspaper outlet was chosen as a possible target throughout 2018.
Analysis of the data suggests Roula Khalaf’s phone was chosen as a potential target by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while she was deputy editor at the Financial Times.
The information was originally leaked to human rights group Amnesty and not for profit group Forbidden Stories, which helps promote the work of persecuted journalists. It was then shared with a consortium of other newspapers, including the likes of the Washington Post whose reporters were targeted.
If a number appears on the leaked list, then it means that the phone was targeted for hacking, though it can’t be conclusively established whether the hack was successful.
However, Amnesty did confirm that at least 15 people on the list were successfully hacked after they gave over their phones to the group to be examined.
Among those confirmed cases were Siddharth Varadarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, of Indian news site Wire, who have worked on stories about the Indian government spreading disinformation online.
Omar Radi, a Moroccan reporter who’s written repeated exposes of government crime, was also amongst those successfully hacked.
The information also shows that the phone of Mexican freelance journalist Cecilio Pineda Birta was also chosen a month before he was killed by gun-wielding criminals at a car wash. His phone was never discovered and it wasn’t clear if it had been hacked.
Another was award-winning Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova, was confirmed to have been hacked in 2019.
It’s like we’re all eating from the tree of knowledge, and for those people who use such knowledge, they have everything at their fingertips, and every new device has its benefits and drawbacks, it depends on the user.
Sadly the minute you agreed to use a smartphone, WhatsApp and Facebook, you agreed to be spied on, and then happily everyone shows off every aspect of their life on Facebook.
There is no privacy, it doesn’t matter who you are, every key you hit is being recorded somewhere, and I’m sure there’s always been some sort of spyware on cell phones from the very first cell phone, and any government involvement just piggybacked on what was previously there.
The cost of the storage of the data collected must be enormous, but it’s in that black budget that mere mortal taxpaying voters aren’t even permitted to know.
To keep things people have said in perpetuity is proving to have life-changing consequences for the behaviour of teenagers, and this is so wrong, and now teenagers are learning societal limits by pushing their boundaries like it’s the normal thing to do.
And this behaviour, coupled with peer pressure to conform to the crowd makes for some people to do incredibly stupid things. Of course, most people regret the stupid things they do, but with an all remembering internet, nothing slips from memory.