Olivia Solon, NBC News:
Ghada Oueiss, a Lebanese broadcast journalist at Al-Jazeera, was eating dinner at home with her husband last June when she received a message from a colleague telling her to check Twitter. Oueiss opened up the account and was horrified: A private photo taken when she was wearing a bikini in a jacuzzi was being circulated by a network of accounts, accompanied by false claims that the photos were taken at her boss’s house.
Oueiss is one of several high-profile female journalists and activists who have allegedly been targeted and harassed by authoritarian regimes in the Middle East through hack-and-leak attacks using the Pegasus spyware, created by Israeli surveillance technology company NSO Group. The spyware transforms a phone into a surveillance device, activating microphones and cameras and exporting files without a user knowing.
For Oueiss and several other women whose phones were allegedly targeted, a key part of the harassment and intimidation is the use of private photos. While these photos may seem tame by Western standards, they are considered scandalous in conservative societies like Saudi Arabia and were seemingly used to publicly shame these women and smear their reputations.
NSO Group previously claimed that it would not sell to over fifty countries it determined would abuse the capabilities of its spyware. I am sure that the women whose photos were stolen and whose privacy was violated are not convinced NSO Group does nearly enough to restrict heinous actions by users of its software.