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  • Matthew Spencer - Tech Journalist

Israeli spyware: Pegasus is tracking down Jordan activists and journalists

On 29th March of 2022, a joint report from Front Line Defenders and Citizen Lab stated that spyware called Pegasus has been tracking Jordan's journalists, activists, and lawyers from 2019 to 2021.

Pegasus is spyware developed by a cyber arms company from Israel called NSO Group. It can infiltrate through an android or an iOS operating system to gather all of your conversations, messages, private documents and photos.

Apple sued the company that developed Pegasus spyware to exploit their iOS operation systems and their phones. Since then, the NSO group has been on close observation not to activate their spyware anymore.

The world is aware of the fact that Jordan is being rumoured as a 'free country, where there are multiple cases of reports of corruption within their system. A protest was like a daily workout for them. It often becomes out of bounds for the government to control their system, and according to Citizen Lab, the government has implanted the spyware among Jordan's reputed media personalities.

Citizen Lab and Front-Line Defenders also included that the number of personalities got tracked down by the Jordan government was only four. Actually, according to the documents from Citizen Lab, Jordan journalists have been a target of Pegasus spyware attacks ever since 1992.

But the most crucial report that Citizen Lab has leaked was that the government of Jordan is connected with two groups of operators for this operation. One of them is called MANSAF, and the other group is called BLACK IRIS.

Luckily, they could identify three personalities who were also the victims of this track down. One of them is an activist named Ahmed Al-Neimat. In 2018, the JSF (Jordanian Security Forces) issued the anti-corruption activist Ahmed Al-Neimat a ban from working and a ban from travelling.

Another person among the victims was a lawyer of the Human Rights Department, Mail Abu Orabi. Among those three, the last identified person was a Women's HR journalist named Suhair Jaradat.

Unfortunately, the fourth and only victim of the track down wanted to remain anonymous for their own good. The Front-Line Defenders figured out that that person was also a journalist who focused on women's rights issues.

All of the data about these four personalities of the track down was reported by the Front-Line Defenders. They have a detailed breakdown of what they were doing and how their phones got hacked by Pegasus spyware between 2019 and 2021.

As there is much corruption going around in the system of Jordan, it's no wonder the government of Jordan wants to secure their country's reputation. But the method they are using is not liked by the citizens of Jordan. But the real problem begins when the Jordan government goes into denial. JSC (Jordan National Cyber Security Center) completely denies that there was no sign of the Jordan government spying on any of their citizens. They even rejected the government's links with the two operators, MANSAF and BLACK IRIS. According to them, the Jordan government didn't cooperate with any infamous operators to pull out any operation on their citizens.

As the NSO group has been under close observation, there is no possible way for them to launch their spyware under the circumstances they are in. If the NSO group didn't implant the Pegasus spyware into the devices of those journalists, activists and lawyers, then who did. The Front-Line Defenders and Citizen Lab's reports had to be the truth. Otherwise, there is no other explanation for this question.

The General Secretary of IFJ (International Federation of Journalists), Anthony Bellanger, said: "We strictly condemn any attempt to interfere with journalists' private communications, undermining democracy and the public's right to know.”

It is still not proven yet whether the government of Jordan is behind this whole operation or not, but specific evidence indicates so. No matter what, the citizens of Jordan have the right to know what is going on as their own privacy is also endangered due to the allegations against the government. Shortly, it may create chaos and civil war among themselves as they can't trust their government anymore.


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