Photo: ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP (Getty Images)
After continually deflecting accusations that it surveilled droves of politicians and journalists using invasive phone-tapping software, Greece’s government has decided to ban sales of spyware within the country’s borders altogether. But the government also wants everybody to know that this is in no way an admission of guilt and that it definitely didn’t do anything wrong, thank you very much.
“We won’t allow any shadow to remain on issues that poison Greek society,” a government spokesperson told journalists on Monday.
Understanding Greece’s spyware “Watergate” is a little complicated, and requires a bit of a digression.
See, suspicions about spying by the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis first cropped up way back in July, when Nikos Androulakis, a Greek politician and member of the European parliament, was discovered to have been targeted with a mobile spyware known as “Predator.” At the time, the government denied any wrongdoing and suggested an investigation into the incident. However, an investigation found that Greece’s intelligence service had, in fact, monitored Androulakis—though the government denied using Predator to do so. The prime minister claimed that he had no knowledge of this surveillance activity and dubbed it a “legal” but unethical operation.
Since then, a number of other politicians have discovered traces of Predator on their phones, and the scandal now threatens to engulf the nation. It has spurred an investigation by the Greek parliament as well as a slew of resignations from top bureaucrats in the Mitsotakis government, including its intelligence chief. The administration has perpetually denied using Predator, which is known for its ability to infiltrate and steal data from mobile devices.
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This week, the leftwing outlet Documento ratcheted up the drama when it published a list of some 33 different politicians, journalists, and business owners that it claims have been targeted by the spyware. The list, which was compiled after a forensic investigation found traces of the malware on targets’ phones, includes a number of prominent public officials, including a foreign minister, a finance minister, two ex-ministers of civil protection, the labor minister, the development minister, and the tourism minister, as well as some family members of those bureaucrats. It is unclear why these specific people were targets for surveillance or what information was collected about them.
The government’s response to the suspicions against it has mostly been to deny that it did anything wrong. It also denied ever using or buying spyware. However, this week, the government tried a slightly different tactic when it announced that it would be issuing a blanket ban on the sale of spyware inside Greece. Reuters reports that the newly announced prohibition will be formalized in an upcoming piece of legislation.
Greece isn’t the only country currently facing criticism over its use of spyware. All across Europe, similar scandals have been wreaking political chaos while sowing distrust between governments and their constituents. Close to half a dozen other EU members, including the United Kingdom, France, Poland, Spain, and Hungary, are all reeling from controversies over surveillance right now—all involving off-the-shelf tools that can be purchased legally.
If Greece does pass a ban on spyware use within the country, that would a step in the right direction for online privacy and security, though surely not the end of the story.
Source by gizmodo.com