Local activist ‘angry’ over Pegasus phone hacking

An undated photo of human rights activist Hala Ahed.(File photo: Handout from Dana Al-Zyadat)
AMMAN — Human rights activist Hala Ahed confirmed Monday that her mobile phone was spied on by a spyware that can be installed on devices running some versions of the iOS (Apple’s iPhone operating system).اضافة اعلان

Front Line Defenders (a human rights organization based in Dublin)contacted me and other activists and told us that there is information that a number of mobile phones had been hacked through a spyware called Pegasus,” Ahed told Jordan News Tuesday. She added that she checked her phone (through experts) “and it turned out that my phone had been hacked.”

Ahed said that was terribly disturbed by this intrusion. “This matter was very annoying to me, as the right to privacy is a big deal and it is linked to many rights, including the feeling of security, therefore threatening the right to freedom made me feel anxious, confused, and angry,” she added

The London based The Guardian reported Monday that two female activists, Ahed from Jordan and Ebtisam Al-Saegh, a Bahraini human rights defender, had their mobile phones hacked multiple times by countries using Israeli NSO Group spyware. The paper added that the spyware used was NSO’s Pegasus. The hacking was confirmed by security researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. Researchers confirmed that her mobile device was infected with Pegasus in March 2021.

 “I do not know who the party that spied on my phone is, but this program is only sold to governments. Those who checked mine proved that the spyware that hacked my phone had access to photos, conversations, and all applications, but they could not determine who the party that did this was,” Ahed said.

“I will take all the measures that I can take, determine the legal options, and discuss them with fellow lawyers to act towards the Israeli party that developed the spyware and sold it, or the party that spied on my phone,” she said.

Cyber security expert Hussain Al-Jedaieh said that the issue of hacking activists’ phones, spying on them, and invading their privacy is an old one that comes back to the fore whenever a case of spying on an activist is revealed. “It becomes a main headline and is dealt with in different ways without a proper understanding of the reality of these actions and the parties responsible for them,” he said.

“The question remains open about the party that bought the services of these companies and what is the purpose and objectives of these spying acts,” he added.

Commissioner-General of the National Center for Human Rights Alaa Al-Armouti, said that they are in the process of monitoring and verifying what was discussed in the matter of Hala Ahed to “take a clear position.”

As for lawyer Loay Obeidat, he considered what happened to the activist an attack on her private life and held the Jordanian state responsible for preserving the privacy of Jordanian citizens and stopping piracy and attacks on them. He added that this act is legally and politically condemned.

NSO has said that its software is licensed to be used by client countries against suspected terrorists and other serious criminals, and that it investigates credible allegations of abuse by its clients.

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