The International Press Institute (IPI from the International Press Institute) has expressed serious concerns about the confirmed surveillance of Greek journalist Thanasis Koukakis. The journalist was monitored for more than two months by a powerful tool spyware, the Predator.
The IPI called on the competent Greek authorities to thoroughly investigate, locate and publicly report the source of the monitoring.
On April 11, it was revealed through reports that Koukakis, an investigative journalist covering financial and banking issues in Greece, had been using an infected cell phone for at least ten weeks in 2021. The device had been infected by Predator, an advanced spyware tool.
According to a first analysis by Citizen Lab experts, the spyware Predator is available from the European monitoring company Cytrox, and is sold in Greece by Intellexa. Koukakis enlisted the help of spyware researchers at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, who confirmed that Predator had invaded his device between July 12 and September 24, 2021.
The investigation found that the source of the intrusion was a Greek phone number, which sent Koukakis a text message containing an infected link to a fake website. Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak said:
"We detected the SMS that was used to infect him… it is the first Greek case that we could confirm"
Citizen Lab said it could not confirm whether the spyware was used by the Greek government or a private company.
Like the well-known Pegasus spy software developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, Predator allows the malicious user to gain full access to a target phone for extracting data, contacts and messages (and those sent via encrypted applications), turn on the microphone and access the camera.
However, unlike Pegasus, Predator is malware that requires the target to first click on an infected link.
On April 11, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said that the Greek authorities do not use Predator and do not deal with companies that sell it. It even seemed to imply that the alleged surveillance had been carried out by an individual, and not by a government body. "It goes without saying that the competent authorities must do what is right to clarify this case and bring justice. "Obviously, in a country like Greece, in a state governed by the rule of law, no one can watch others," he said.
The government commented on his post @insidestory_gr with the certainty that my monitoring was done by an individual. I await the conclusion of ADAE that will confirm this claim. pic.twitter.com/VS2ORv3q1E- Thanasis Koukakis (@nasoskook) April 11, 2022
Reporters United but he has at his disposal State documents proving that in the summer of 2020 (a year before the hack with Predator) the EYP, which is under the direct supervision of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, monitored the mobile phone of journalist Thanasis Koukakis citing national security reasons.
Koukakis is a journalist for Newsbomb, CNN Greece and a contributor to the research platform Inside Story, as well as to many international media such as the Financial Times and CNBC. He specializes in articles on corruption and money laundering in the banking sector. At the time, he was investigating issues related to Greek bank loans, the prosecution of tax evasion crimes and fake and fictitious invoices, according to the Inside story.
Cytrox was founded in 2017 and then acquired a year later by the Cypriot company WiSpear (renamed Passitora Ltd), which is owned by Tal Dillian, former commander of Unit 8100, a secret technology unit that is part of the Israeli Army Special Operations Division . The Intellexa company develops and sells monitoring tools and malware that allow its customers to hack iOS and Android devices. In previous interviews, Dillian said their technology was intended for international law enforcement.
The Inside Story research report in Greece identified that Intellexa headquarters are located in Greece. On its website, the company states that it is an "EU-based regulated company and has six branches and R&D laboratories across Europe". Citizen Lab, which has investigated Cytrox, said it did not currently have evidence that the company was selling its products to individuals.
Koukakis posted a tweet on Monday stating that prosecutor Sotiria Papageorgopoulou had ordered an investigation.
The @insidestory_gr and @reporters_gr revelations regarding the surveillance of my phone led to the intervention of the Athens Prosecutor, Sotiria Papageorgopoulou, who ordered a preliminary examination. I welcome this development. It is crucial and important 1/2- Thanasis Koukakis (@nasoskook) April 18, 2022
Koukakis is not the only victim of wiretapping by the National Intelligence Service. The journalists of Solomon, a group of investigative journalists investigating the immigration conditions in Greece, Iliana Papaggeli and Stavros Malihoudis also discovered that they had been monitored by the Greek intelligence services, which were monitoring their work on the island of Kos.