Spyware Firms in Athens Raided after Greece Bans Their Sale

Опубликовано: 16 Декабрь 2022

Smartphone FingerInvestigations into the “Greek Watergate” phone-tapping scandals continue. (Photo: Océanos y dados, Flickr, License)

Greek police raided the Athens office of an Israeli company behind the Predator spyware, local media reported, as investigations into a wiretapping scandal that has rocked the country in recent months continue.

The offices of Intellexa, the spyware firm which supplies Predator, was raided in Tuesday evening’s operation, alongside the offices of five other firms. The busts also targeted the company executives' homes.

The raids were triggered after revelations earlier this year that dozens of prominent politicians, journalists and businesspeople were under surveillance in what has been dubbed the “Greek Watergate,” where Intellexa’s cyberespionage tool was detected in the phone of a journalist and attempted to make its way into opposition leader Nikos Androulakis’s phone.

In August, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted that the buggings were executed by the country’s intelligence services. Mitsotakis sought to distance himself from the incident, describing it as lawful but wrong.

Tuesday’s operations continue the government’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of the scandal. Last week, Greece passed an intelligence bill banning the sales of spyware.

The bill criminalizes the sale or possession of spyware, punishable by a minimum of two years in prison.

The Predator software is a cheaper alternative to the NSO Group’s more widely known Pegasus spyware, and can similarly infiltrate smartphones, steal data, and turn the phones into listening and recording devices.

However as the NSO Group gets blacklisted for its role in assisting authoritarian regimes, Intellexa, founded by former general in Israeli military intelligence Tal Dilian, has been gaining popularity, a New York Times investigation last week found.

According to the Times investigation, “Predator was found to have been used in another dozen countries since 2021, illustrating the continued demand among governments and the lack of robust international efforts to limit the use of such tools.”

The investigation also found that Greece gave Intellexa licenses to export its Predator spyware to Madagascar, and that Intellexa pitched its spyware to Ukraine, which declined the offer.