Skyline condemns the Bahraini government's hacking phones of nine activists with NSO Group Zero-Click iPhone Exploits
STOCKHOLM - Skyline International for Human Rights raises concerns over the continuous hacking operations by dictatorial governments against human rights activists, journalists and opponents. These illegal practices threaten those targeted people. Indeed, these operations have been escalated due to weak technologies and operating systems of phones and the absence of joint coordination between social networking sites and the companies running the programming of those phones.
In a statement issued today, Thursday, Skyline thoroughly condemns what is reported by Canada-based Citizen Lab on Tuesday, August 24 that "Bahrain used Israeli spyware Pegasus to hack the into phones of several activists, both inside the country and elsewhere".
Among the activists targeted include two exiles who live in London, three members of Waad, a secular political society, three members of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and a member of the Al Wefaq party.
Also, the spying operations include the opposition photojournalist "Moosa Abd Ali" and blogger "Youssef Al-Jamri", who live in London. Information confirmed that the iPhones of those people had been hacked, through the spyware "Pegasus" of the "NSO Group" between June 2020 and February 2021.
Citizen Lab, the internet watchdog based at the University of Toronto, analyzed the activist’s iPhone 12 Pro and found evidence that it was hacked starting in February using a so-called “zero-click” attack, since it does not require any user interaction to infect a victim’s device.
The hacks also circumvent a new software security feature built into all versions of iOS 14, dubbed BlastDoor, which is supposed to prevent these kinds of device hacks by filtering malicious data sent over iMessage.
The human rights foundation "Skyline" points out that the Israeli spying companies record a remarkable activity and demand for the production and development of spyware by some Arab governments that rely mainly on these programs. It further shed lights on the press investigation conducted by more than 18 international media organizations recently, which revealed extensive spying operations of phones of more than 50,000 people including human rights activists, journalists, academics, NGO employees, union and government officials, from ministers to heads of states.
Skyline concluded its statement by calling on social networking companies, Google, Microsoft and Apple, to coordinate, work to develop and update their platforms to reduce hacking operation, and establish a specific mechanism to ensure the protection of their users' data and information.
Furthermore, Skyline stresses the need to update the international legislative system and provide guarantees related to the protection of individuals' data and confidentiality, especially journalists and human rights defenders.