A groundbreaking investigation by The Guardian revealed numerous Saudi attempts to hack into its citizens' phones during their stays in the United States, in a new alleged digital breach orchestrated by Saudi officials.
Today we've published alarming data given to @guardian by a whistleblower about what appears to be a surveillance campaign by Saudi Arabia. When mobile users leave the kingdom for the US, our data shows their movements are closely tracked https://t.co/V4h73HA3bj— Stephanie Kirchgaessner (@skirchy) March 29, 2020
According to the Guardian, Saudi cyber experts have been exploiting weaknesses in the global mobile telecom networks, to keep monitoring the movements of those citizens, who use Saudi registered phones while abroad.
A whistleblower told the Guardian that the global messaging system suffers several vulnerabilities as a result of 'an organized surveillance campaign' by Saudi Arabia.
According to the whistleblower, suspicions were raised when the system received a very high number of location tracking requests, all emerging from Saudi Arabia and related to Saudi citizens traveling through the United States.
Saudi Arabia may be abusing global phone tracking system to spy on dissidentshttps://t.co/0sTuUkAltd— Livid 🤦🏻♀️ (@Livid2point0) March 31, 2020
The shocking report explains that similar reports are usually considered legitimate as telecom companies work to collect data related to roaming charges, but that "excessive" number of requests drew experts' attention. According to experts, the location tracking was requested up to 13 times an hour at times."
What you are tweeting is an evidence of total ignorance. Every healthy mind individual leaving his/her country his/her mobile service data will be shared with foreign service providers for costs recovery purposes. Stop spreading lies.— Mohammed (@Mohamme73846835) March 30, 2020
While the Guardian didn't mention names of any Saudi potential targets, many social media commentators linked the news with the country's constant attempts to track political dissidents and critics of the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; especially after January's reports of his involvement in sending a Whatsapp message to Jeff Bezos with the aim of hacking the Washington Post's owner's phone.
كل السعوديين والاماراتيين مراقبين من حكوماتهم وهم نايمين ما يدرون— قناص (@BelaGalb9o0o9) March 29, 2020
Translation: "All Saudis and Emiratis are spied on by their governments without them knowing."
Saudi Twitter users attempted to defend the Saudi government, saying that all governments track their citizens while they travel internationally and that it's "mostly done to protect them".
الاف بي اي تفرجت عليك وانت جالس على السيفون ومحد قالهم شي— Canary (@canarygoogle) March 29, 2020
Translation: "The FBI literally knows when you've gone to the bathroom the last time and no one said anything."
One Saudi commentator added that "most applications installed on mobile phones do the same, which makes it just normal for governments too".
واش يضرني او غيري ان كانت تحركاتي معلومة للسلطات طالما ان تحركاتي ضمن القانوني،، ابل تتجسس علينا ،، قوقل تتجسس علينا وتحفظ جميع تحركاتنا ،، جميع برامج الصور تحتفظ بصورنا وبدون اي استئذان مننا ،، على الاقل لو ضامني الدهر مالي الا دولتي بعد الله ،،بعدين من افترض واثبت هالفرضية ?!!— قيد الإصلاح (@s11fi4777) March 30, 2020
Translation: "Why would it bother me if authorities knew my location as long as I'm following laws? Apple spies on us, Google too has our location all the time. Image programs have every picture we've ever taken of our families without asking for our permission. I trust that my government will do everything to protect me. And also, whose theory is this?"
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