Report: Research ties Pegasus spyware on phone Jamal Khashoggi’s wife to UAE agents

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Dec 21, 2021 | CYBERSCOOP

United Arab Emirates agents loaded Pegasus spyware on the phone of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s wife months before his death, the Washington Post first reported Tuesday.

The software was discovered by Citizen Lab, which examined the device at the request of the newspaper and Khashoggi’s wife, Hanan Elatr.

Agents placed the spyware on her phone after seizing her from the Dubai airport in April 2018 and interrogating her, the researchers said. During the interrogations, they seized her two Android phones. Agents typed in a web address that researchers have tied to a network used to spread the spyware.

The Post first reported in July that Elatr was targeted by Pegasus spyware via text messages, but researchers couldn’t tell if the hack was successful. It’s unclear if the spyware launched by UAE agents finished installing on the phone, Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak told the Post. However, the new findings are the first to directly tie a UAE government agency to the use of spyware on someone close to Khashoggi in the months leading up to his murder.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman approved Khashoggi’s murder.

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