Why Is Saudi Arabia Spying on Its Citizens During Their US Visits?

Published March 31st, 2020 - 06:59 GMT
Why Is Saudi Arabia Spying on Its Citizens During Their Us Visits?
A whistleblower told the Guardian that the global messaging system suffers from several vulnerabilities as a result of 'an organized surveillance campaign' by Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)

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. 

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.

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."

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.

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".

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".

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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