Phone of Palestine journalists found to be infected with spyware

Phones of the media workers who provide humanitarian services for Palestine have been found to be infected with sophisticated spyware software, human rights groups said. Aviator, a type of spyware developed by Dutch company…

Phone of Palestine journalists found to be infected with spyware


Phones of the media workers who provide humanitarian services for Palestine have been found to be infected with sophisticated spyware software, human rights groups said.

Aviator, a type of spyware developed by Dutch company Pegasus, has been dubbed “the Great Elephant” by news agencies and defense experts because it is believed to be able to monitor mobile phone communications by other devices.

Millions of phone users worldwide have been infected by the Pegasus program, which reportedly taps phone conversations, turns on microphones and eavesdrops on incoming phone calls, according to Reuters.

A variety of operators and independent security researchers have confirmed and documented the existence of the Pegasus spyware, which appears to be operated out of Lebanon. The malware has reportedly been sold to government-backed and militant spy groups.

Information technology company Trend Micro released a report on Thursday saying a small cell tower operator based in Israel, called al-Bytes Telecommunications Group Ltd., appeared to have been infected by the Pegasus program and to be selling the software to customers throughout the Middle East.

Trend Micro said it had collected some 100 phone numbers tied to the cell tower operators and was examining those numbers to determine if they were infected.

Another telecom company, Teleshar, and a former seller of Pegasus, identified as Fortress Information Technologies, have been named as victims, the report said.

Other companies and individuals named in the report as affiliates or customers of the Israel-based al-Bytes Telecom include Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE and Yemen.

“To be clear, we do not know if some of these companies, individuals, or operational theaters are indeed infected, although their networks are likely tainted with the Pegasus trojan,” the report said.

Trend Micro said it could not assess whether the Pegasus program had been modified or modified by attackers or if it remained operational.

“As a general rule, the attachment of an application for illegal or inappropriate purposes cannot be confirmed until the operation of the application is shut down. However, none of these victims report any remote attack or interference,” the report said.

Trend Micro said it was not aware of any communications from the mobile devices infected by the Pegasus program.

An official with the Palestine Liberation Organization issued a statement asking the United Nations and the European Union to investigate whether Israeli agents were behind the attacks.

“We call on the appropriate authorities for an immediate investigation and prosecution,” read the statement.

In January, Reuters reported that the command and control center used by the Cyber Caliphate militant group that claimed to take over Twitter and the website of the Democratic National Committee was used to locate targets such as Israeli and Ukrainian military bases and malls.

Following the cyber attack on those targets, a Twitter account with the handle “Cyber Caliphate” was shut down.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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