Journalists appear to have fallen prone to a particularly sophisticated digital espionage campaign. According to the Guardian, Citizen Lab has discovered that operators using NSO Group software, nicknamed Kismet, hacked the iPhones of 37 journalists (most from Al Jazeera) using an iMessage vulnerability that had been present for roughly a year. The zero-click attacks left no trace and would have allowed access to passwords, microphone audio and even snapping photos.
The exact motivations aren’t clear, but there were four operators that appear to have origins in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and, in at least two cases, acted on the government’s behalf. One victim, Al Araby’s Rania Dridi, believed she might have been a target due to her discussions of women’s rights and her link to an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. One target reportedly received spyware links like those used to snoop on UAE activist Ahmed Mansoor in 2016.