Operatives Targeted Multiple People in Connection to Spyware Makers ‘NSO Group’

Canary. Photo by 4028mdk09.

Following the story.

In mid-October, an @ theNewsBlender ICYMI highlighted the report that, in light of the Saudi Arabia dissident and America resident journalist Jamal Khoahoggi’s murder, Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) re-upped their report from Oct 1 and Citizen Lab’s published report showing it had detected the spyware called Pegasus – created by the software vendor called the NSO Group – in 45 countries being used that may be used to track journalist and their resources.

In a bizarre twist last month, the Associated Press reported “the researchers who reported that Israeli software was used to spy on Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inner circle before his gruesome death are being targeted in turn by international undercover operatives.”

An Associated Press follow-up now reports that the Undercover spy exposed in NYC was 1 of many.

LONDON (AP) — When mysterious operatives lured two cybersecurity researchers to meetings at luxury hotels over the past two months, it was an apparent bid to discredit their research about an Israeli company that makes smartphone hacking technology used by some governments to spy on their citizens. The Associated Press has now learned of similar undercover efforts targeting at least four other individuals who have raised questions about the use of the Israeli firm’s spyware.

The four others targeted by operatives include three lawyers involved in related lawsuits in Israel and Cyprus alleging that the company, the NSO Group, sold its spyware to governments with questionable human rights records. The fourth is a London-based journalist who has covered the litigation. Two of them — the journalist and a Cyprus-based lawyer — were secretly recorded meeting the undercover operatives; footage of them was broadcast on Israeli television just as the AP was preparing to publish this story.

Associated Press; Feb 10 2019

According to the New York Times report Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client last August, NSO Group is facing multiple lawsuits “accusing the company of actively participating in illegal spying,” alleging that the makers of the spyware “are complicit in these privacy violations.”

Forbes reported that the company is looking for investors, but at a time when “among these complainants is a Saudi dissident who says the software was used to intercept his conversations with Jamal Kashoggi, the journalist who was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year,” loan investors “are concerned by the reputational risks that come with the investment opportunity.”

National Security and Investigative reporter Jenna McLaughlin, who wrote about the UAE government run company Dark Matter and the build up of their security capabilities using former American spooks turned mercenaries in December 2017 in Deep Pockets, Deep Cover – now reports about what is known as the “bi-annual International Defense Exhibition” that was held in UAE’s Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi—As weapons sales to Gulf countries soar, defense companies flocked to last month’s bi-annual International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

But amid the usual displays of machine guns, helicopters, and tanks, in the quieter corners of the showroom floor, purveyors of intelligence and surveillance products also hawked their wares to governments and law enforcement agencies worldwide.

At one display, multiple companies banded together and debuted a one-stop shop for intelligence solutions branded “Intellexa.” Their booth displayed a massive “long range mission intelligence vehicle” sold by WiSpear, a company founded by former Israeli military intelligence official Tal Dilian registered in Southern Cyprus.

Yahoo! News

“One click and we can take control of your phone,” said a representative at the booth working for Advanced Systems, an intelligence company based in Dubai which advertises “a full range of intelligence solutions to help governments to effectively fight against terrorism, malicious acts, or civil unrest.”

For background reading: International Operatives Target Citizen Lab Cybersecurity Watchdog; TheNewsBlender.

You can read about McLaughlin’s report in the Canary’s story Former US Agents Hack Dissidents, Rivals, Journalists & Americans for UAE; TheNewsBlender.

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