Spyware targeted Khashoggi’s wife before his death: report
Hanan Elatr, the wife of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was targeted by the Israeli tech firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware just months before he was killed in 2018, The Washington Post reports.
On Sunday it was reported that the spyware, used by governments to track terrorists and criminals, had been used to hack smartphones belonging to activists and journalists.
According to the Post, two women close to Khashoggi were targeted by the spyware: Elatr and his fiancée Hatice Cengiz.
In 2017 and 2018, a Pegasus user sent Elatr a text containing links that were capable of implanting spyware onto her phone, though because she used an Android researchers are reportedly unable to determine whether her device was actually breached.
Elatr, an Egyptian flight attendant who married the Post journalist in 2018, told the newspaper that she and Khashoggi would text multiple times a week, often switching apps on his suggestion as Khashoggi believed that doing so would prevent a security breach.
“Jamal warned me before that this might happen,” Elatr said. “It makes me believe they are aware of everything that happened to Jamal through me.”
The Post reports that a Pegasus user attempted numerous times to hack Cengiz’s phone as well in the days following Khashoggi’s death in Turkey. Cengiz had accompanied Khashoggi to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad.
“I was expecting that, but I am upset. I want to be a normal person, as anyone. All these things make me sad and scared. My phone could be attacked again in the future, and I feel I don’t have any way to protect myself from this,” Cengiz said in an interview in Turkey, the Post reports.
At the time of Khashoggi’s slaying, Elatr and Cengiz did not know of each other. It is unknown if Khashoggi’s phone, which he left with Cengiz before entering the consulate, was hacked as well, as it is currently being held by Turkish authorities.
NSO has so far denied that its technology was used against Khashoggi or those close to him.
“As NSO has previously stated, our technology was not associated in any way with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” the tech firm said in a statement to the Post. “This includes listening, monitoring, tracking, or collecting information. We previously investigated this claim, immediately after the heinous murder, which again, is being made without validation.”