Palestinian activists fear their phones have been secretly surveilled by Israeli spyware

Other groups say the Passport Group and Passport Alliance “inadvertently” enlisted Pegasus to spy on them, although they have not been accused of doing anything wrong. Local human rights groups in the Palestinian territories…

Palestinian activists fear their phones have been secretly surveilled by Israeli spyware

Other groups say the Passport Group and Passport Alliance “inadvertently” enlisted Pegasus to spy on them, although they have not been accused of doing anything wrong.

Local human rights groups in the Palestinian territories say they are in the dark about how organizations run by people associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization were using some of their smartphones, months after sophisticated spyware came to light. The groups say that pass codes or other ways of protecting data were left out of their organization contracts with the two companies, the Passport Group and the Passport Alliance. Human rights groups say the Passport Group and Passport Alliance are members of the Israeli Intelligence Council, an organization responsible for security and intelligence services in the country. Israel’s government denies using the spyware.

Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the U.S.-based pro-Palestinian group the White Helmets and an insider in the Palestinian territory, said “it raises a lot of questions” about whether the people who oversaw the group in Ramallah had properly secured the phones when it signed its contracts.

The Passport Group is a government of Israel, and the Passport Alliance is a US-based group working with Israeli intelligence services to provide phones for use in the Palestinian territories, media in the region reported in January. Palestinian NGOs that work in the West Bank now fear for the safety of their staffs, because they have not been given clear explanations about how their phones were compromised. The same thing is likely happening in Gaza.

Earlier this year, The Times of Israel and Haaretz reported that a powerful surveillance system created by American-Israeli software company Pegasus, which allows spies to steal information off vulnerable devices, was being used on Israeli government laptops to illegally spy on its political opponents. The Israelis did not deny it. Israeli newspapers reported that a former government cyber-security official in the West Bank said the Pegasus software had left an “enormous effect” on the country’s ability to thwart cyber attacks, such as last year’s WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled hospitals and businesses worldwide.

The bad news is not contained in Israel, as human rights groups in the Palestinian territories now fear for their own staffs.

Read the full story at The Atlantic Wire.

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