JERUSALEM – A Saudi dissident has filed a lawsuit against an Israeli surveillance company, claiming its sophisticated spyware targeted him and helped lead to the killing of his friend, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The suit, filed in a Tel Aviv court on Sunday, follows others previously filed against the company. But because of its links to the international outrage over the killing of Khashoggi, it is likely to shine a larger spotlight on the company and the Israeli government, which licenses the export of the surveillance technology. The company called the lawsuit "completely unfounded," saying it shows "no evidence that the company's technology was used." Israel's Defense Ministry declined comment on its export policies.
The UK lawyer whose phone was targeted by spyware that exploits a WhatsApp vulnerability said it appeared to be a desperate attempt by someone to covertly find out the details of his human rights work. The lawyer, who asked not to be named, is involved in a civil case brought against the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group whose sophisticated Pegasus malware has reportedly been used against Mexican journalists, and a prominent Saudi dissident living in Canada. It has been claimed the would-be hacker had also repeatedly attempted to install Pegasus on the lawyer's phone in recent weeks. The lawyer, speaking to the Guardian, said he did not know who was behind the attempt to spy on him. He said: "It is upsetting but it is not surprising. Someone has to be quite desperate to target a lawyer, and to use the technology that is the very subject of the lawsuit."
Saudi Arabia has been accused of launching a sophisticated hacking attack against a prominent dissident in London who is allegedly living under police protection, according to a letter of claim that has been sent to the kingdom and seen by the Guardian. The letter of claim, which was delivered to the Saudi embassy in London on Tuesday, was sent on behalf of the Saudi satirist Ghanem Almasarir, and alleges he was targeted by Saudi Arabia with malware developed by the NSO Group, the controversial Israeli surveillance company. NSO's Pegasus software has allegedly been used by Saudi Arabia and other governments to target journalists, human rights campaigners and political activists. A report earlier this month found that the spyware had previously taken advantage of a glitch on WhatsApp to try to gain access to a phone used by a British lawyer involved in a civil case against NSO Group. According to the letter of claim, Almasarir received suspicious text messages in June 2018.
WhatsApp has launched an unprecedented lawsuit against a cyber weapons firm which it has accused of being behind secret attacks on more than 100 human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, and academics in just two weeks earlier this year. The social media firm is suing the NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company, saying it is responsible for a series of highly sophisticated cyber-attacks which it claims violated American law in an "unmistakeable pattern of abuse". WhatsApp said it believed the technology sold by NSO was used to target the mobile phones of more than 1,400 of its users in 20 different countries during a 14-day period from the end of April to the middle of May. In this brief period, WhatsApp believes those who were the subject of the cyber-attacks included leading human rights defenders and lawyers, prominent religious figures, well-known journalists and officials in humanitarian organisations. A number of women previously targeted by cyber-violence, and individuals who have faced assassination attempts and threats of violence, as well as their relatives, were also the victims of the attacks, the company believes.
The UN's demand for law enforcement authorities to conduct a proper investigation into the alleged hacking of Jeff Bezos's mobile phone came after it reviewed the findings of a cybersecurity firm, FTI. The firm carried out a forensic analysis of Bezos' phone last year and concluded with "medium to high confidence" that it had been compromised because of actions attributable to a WhatsApp account used by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. As a result of this study, the UN said that Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, had probably been hit by a piece of sophisticated malware, and it cited two firms – NSO and Hacking Team – as potential sources for this technology. The UN was careful not to be definitive. Instead of pointing the finger, its statement said the apparent hack had been achieved using software "such as NSO Group's Pegasus or, less likely, Hacking Team's Galileo, that can hook into legitimate applications to bypass detection and obfuscate activity".