A text message pinged onto the mobile telephone of Hanan Elatr one day in November 2017, while she was working as a flight attendant for the Dubai-based Emirates airline.
Purportedly from her sister, it contained a link to an internet site, plus a brief line saying that the sibling thought the site might be of interest.
Hanan does not remember how she responded, or even whether she clicked onto the link. But by then it was too late anyway.
Wheels had almost certainly been set in motion that would lead — 11 months later — to her journalist husband, Jamal Khashoggi, being tortured and brutally murdered by a group of bonesaw-wielding thugs at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul.
Khashoggi, whose work had upset the Middle Eastern kingdom’s autocratic Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, is one of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of public figures who appear to have been successfully targeted via a shadowy piece of phone-hacking software named Pegasus.
Jamal Khashoggi (pictured with fiancee Hatice Cengiz) is one of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of public figures who appear to have been successfully targeted via a shadowy piece of phone-hacking software named Pegasus
The product, designed by an Israeli security firm called NSO Group, can be used by clients — who are believed to include the Saudi regime — to secretly hijack a mobile phone by transforming it into a highly-invasive surveillance device.
It acts as a sort of Trojan Horse, secretly gaining access to a phone’s operating system by hiding away in the background of a normal-looking text, WhatsApp, or other message.
Unbeknown to the device’s owner, an infected handset can then transmit video footage — and audio using its microphone — straight back to NSO Group’s clients in real-time.
It will also constantly access location data, showing exactly where the phone’s owner is at any time, along with every photograph and video on the device, plus the contents of the target’s…