Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client

Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client

Aug. 31, 2018

Rulers of the United Arab Emirates have been using Israeli spyware for several years, leaked e-mails show.Rustam Azmi/Getty Images

The rulers of the United Arab Emirates had been using Israeli spyware for more than a year, secretly turning the smartphones of dissidents at home or rivals abroad into surveillance devices.

So when top Emirati officials were offered a pricey update of the spying technology, they wanted to make sure it worked, according to leaked emails submitted Thursday in two lawsuits against the spyware’s maker, the Israel-based NSO Group.

Could the company secretly record the phones of the emir of Qatar, a regional rival, the Emiratis asked? How about the phone of a powerful Saudi prince who directed the kingdom’s national guard? Or what about recording the phone of the editor of a London-based Arab newspaper?

“Please find two recordings attached,” a company representative wrote back four days later, according to the emails. Appended were two recordings the company had made of calls by the editor, Abdulaziz Alkhamis, who confirmed this week that he had made the calls and said he did not know he was under surveillance.

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