Emirates Leaks

Calls for boycotting UAE over espionage violations


The Washington Post called for boycotting the UAE in response to espionage violations practised by Abu Dhabi with Israeli technologies.

The newspaper said that the Israeli company NSO Group scandal confirms that spyware must be kept out of the hands of evil governments such as the UAE.

The newspaper added that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and all those bad actors who used illegal spying techniques should be boycotted.

The hashtag #الامارات_بيت_الجاسوسية (UAE House of Spies) has topped the trend in the Gulf countries and many Arab countries a few days ago as part of an online campaign exposing Abu Dhabi’s espionage violations.

Tweeters highlighted the UAE’s shameful record of using Israeli techniques for espionage and piracy over the years, which was recently confirmed by an international investigation by major global media outlets.

The investigation revealed a resounding scandal of the Emirati regime targeting 10,000 phone numbers through the Israeli spy group Pegasus NSO.

The targets include Emirati journalists, activists, dissidents, and a great list of targets pursued by the Abu Dhabi regime.

These details were revealed as part of a collaborative investigation coordinated by Forbidden Stories for the Paris-based press and Amnesty International’s technical lab.

The project investigated data linked to the Israeli digital intelligence group NSO, which sells advanced surveillance systems to governments worldwide.

Some 80 journalists representing 17 media organizations worldwide took part in the investigation, which constitutes a new condemnation and scandal for the UAE and its approach based on espionage and hacking.

The Deutsche Welle news website said that Pegasus represents the preferred hacking weapon for dictators in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to monitor journalists and the opposition.

Pegasus is a hacking program that turns mobile phones into data zombies — reaching emails, encrypted messaging messages, and calendar entries can be read. The microphone and the camera can be turned on unnoticed.

Not only does the attack have to come via an infected email or website, but it can also run through tampered cell towers. This means that even cautious users have no chance of protecting their data.

Thus, Pegasus is an effective and cruel electronic weapon of dictators, which was also used, according to current findings, in connection with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the fall of 2018.

The software’s manufacturer, the Israeli cyber-intelligence group NSO, claims it sells it only to verified government agencies and for the exclusive purposes of fighting terrorism and crime. But we know from painful experience that it is not only in dictators where the line to illegal surveillance becomes blurred.

It’s all scandalous – but it really doesn’t come as a surprise. Since the revelations of Edward Snowden, we’ve known just how data-hungry even among intelligence services with democratic legitimacy — for example, when the CIA spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone for years undetected.

Also, Pegasus attacks on iPhones are nothing new. Five years ago, Apple’s iOS operating systems had security holes that allowed Pegasus to make optimal use of data. Apple needed several updates to fill the gap – permanently damaging the company’s security reputation.

Anyone who provides spyware to authoritarian governments such as those in Belarus, Saudi Arabia or the UAE is complicit in human rights abuses that amount to murder.

If it turns out that Hungary is bullying the press in this way, then this country has no place in the European Union. Then there is a need for action, not just words of warning.