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Amnesty employee targeted with Israel spyware

August 1, 2018 at 11:28 am

Image of an Amnesty International rally, 28 July 2017 [Richard Potts/Flickr]

An employee of global human rights group Amnesty International was targeted with Israeli-made surveillance software, the organisation revealed today.

According to AP’s report, the disclosure adds “to a growing number of examples of Israeli technology being used to spy on human rights workers and opposition figures in the Middle East and beyond.”

In its report, Amnesty described how “a hacker tried to break into an unidentified staff member’s smartphone in early June by baiting the employee with a WhatsApp message about a protest in front of the Saudi Embassy in Washington.”

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As reported by AP, Amnesty “said it traced the malicious link in the message to a network of sites tied to the NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company implicated in a series of digital break-in attempts, including a campaign to compromise proponents of a soda tax in Mexico and an effort to hack into the phone of an Arab dissident that prompted an update to Apple’s operating system.”

“This is the new normal for human rights defenders,” said Joshua Franco, Amnesty’s head of technology and human rights.

Amnesty’s findings were corroborated by the University of Toronto-based internet watchdog Citizen Lab; in its own report published today, “Citizen Lab said it so far had counted some 175 targets of NSO spyware worldwide, including 150 people in Panama identified as part of a massive domestic espionage scandal swirling around the country’s former president.”