Jordanians targeted by Pegasus spyware call for investigation, blame Israel

Jordanians targeted by Pegasus spyware call for investigation, blame Israel
3 min read
Jordan - Amman
17 February, 2022
Jordanians targeted by the hacking software called for action from the government, which has thus far been silent on the matter.
Local media claims that over 200 Jordanians were targeted by the Pegasus hacking software, based on an unnamed source [Getty]

Jordanian individuals targeted by the Israeli surveillance spyware, Pegasus, called for an investigation into how they were hacked during a conference in Amman on Thursday.

Dima Tahboub, spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic Action Front and former MP who was targeted by Pegasus, demanded a complete investigation into the matter.

“The government should open an investigation. It’s important to see the nature and the extent of the hacking – especially because Jordan has a so-called peace treaty with Israel. So how come it’s threatening its citizens?” Tahboub told The New Arab.

The conference was held following a report by local media outlet Ammon, which said up to 200 Jordanians had been targeted by the Pegasus software. The reporting relied on an unnamed source from an “international news agency” which said that officials in the royal court, human rights activists and politicians were targeted in the hacks.

Previously, the most high-profile Jordanian to have been hacked by the software was Hala al-Ahed, a human rights defender and lawyer working for the National Forum for Defending Freedoms. She has demanded answers about who ordered the hack into her phone, but the Jordanian government has yet to comment on the case.

It was revealed in April 2021 that the Jordanian government was in talks to buy the software from the Israeli NSO Group, but it is unclear whether or not these talks ever resulted in a purchase being made.

The Pegasus software is an Israeli surveillance software that can access all the information of a mobile phone, without the user having clicked on anything or downloaded any malicious software.

A series of revelations about the software revealed in July 2021 by a journalistic consortium showed that governments from around the world had purchased the software to spy on human rights activists and political rivals.

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The conference speakers said that they believed that the Pegasus hack on Jordanians’ phones was carried out by an external actor. They said that the Jordanian government already “controls all telecommunications” in the country, so there would be no need for it to purchase the Pegasus software.

Tahboub said that she suspected that Israel was behind the hack. She said that following the hack, some of her contacts in Palestine were asked about specific information that no one else knew – leading her to think that Israel used information gained from her phone.

“As a Jordanian citizen I believe that I am entitled to be protected by the constitution. I am asking the government to do this and open an investigation,” Tahboub said.  

Some Jordanians who were targeted by Pegasus said that they were not notified about the conference, nor were they invited.

Mustafa Hamarneh, the CEO of the Jordan Media Institute and former member of the Jordanian senate who was targeted by Pegasus, told The New Arab that he also suspects external actors are behind the hack.

He said that it is possible that the Jordanian government could have outsourced their use of the software to foreign governments.