Cambridge halts £400m deal with UAE over hacking spyware

Cambridge University pulls £400m UAE collaboration over Pegasus spyware claim
2 min read
15 October, 2021
The University of Cambridge has suspended a multi-million-pound collaboration and donation deal with the UAE over claims that the Gulf state used hacking software to target dissidents.
Cambridge University's vice-chancellor said there will be no 'secret arrangements' between the two parties [Getty]

The University of Cambridge has suspended negotiations with the United Arab Emirates over a planned £400 million collaboration, including a £310 million donation spread over a decade.

Stephen Toope, Cambridge’s outgoing vice-chancellor, said that talks with the UAE had been called off after revelations related to Pegasus, an Israeli software that can hack and secretly take control of a mobile phone.

The UAE has been accused of using the spyware to target dissidents.

“There were further revelations about Pegasus that really caused us to decide that it’s not the right time to be pursuing these kinds of really ambitious plans with the UAE,” Toope told the university's Varsity student newspaper.

He added that there will be no "secret arrangements" between the two parties.

MENA
Live Story

"I think we’re going to have to have a robust discussion at some point in the future. Or we may determine that it’s not worth raising again. I honestly don’t know,” Toope said.

The planned donation would have been the largest of its kind in the history of the university according to British newspaper The Guardian, who broke the news on Thursday.

Earlier this year, the Pegasus Project, an investigative collaboration gathering several international newspapers, revealed the leak of over 50,000 phone numbers. The numbers belonged to people identified as “people of interest” to clients of NSO Group, the Israeli company behind the Pegasus software.

Around forty states were clients of NSO, including the UAE, which appeared to be one of the principal clients linked to the UK numbers found in the leak.