A dual U.S.-Greek national working for Meta Platforms Inc. was hacked by the Predator spyware for around one year in Greece, the New York Times (NYT) revealed on Monday.
At the time, Artemis Seaford was in Greece working as a trust and safety manager on Meta’s security policy team.
Why she was hacked is unclear, but it’s now certain that her phone was hacked by Predator. According to NYT, this could make her the first known case of an American spied on in Europe using such technology.
Predator spyware is made by a company called Cytrox, a firm headquartered in Skopje, North Macedonia. In 2021, it was one of several surveillance-for-hire companies that Meta banned on its platforms after it was discovered they were surveilling as many as 50,000 of Meta’s users.
As Matina Stevis-Gridneff says in her report for NYT, the case “demonstrates that the illicit use of spyware is spreading beyond use by authoritarian governments against opposition figures and journalists, and has begun to creep into European democracies, even ensnaring a foreign national working for a major global corporation.”
Meta executive’s phone hacked in Greece by the ‘Predator’ spyware
Seaford worked on policy questions relating to cybersecurity and she also maintained working relations with Greek as well as other European officials.
After she saw her name on a leaked list of spyware targets in the Greek news media last November, she took her phone to The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, the world’s foremost forensics experts on spyware.
The lab report, which was reviewed by NYT, found that Seaford’s mobile phone had been hacked with the Predator spyware in September 2021 for at least two months.
“This does not preclude the possibility of other infections, or of an infection period extending beyond 2021-11-16,” the forensic report by Citizen Lab said.
Seaford on Friday filed a lawsuit in Athens against anyone found responsible for the hack. The suit compels prosecutors to open an investigation.
“Anyone, anywhere can fall prey to spyware hacking. I should know – I was a Predator target. This does not make it normal. We need our governments and international bodies to protect us,” Seaford said in a Tweet.
Anyone, anywhere can fall prey to spyware hacking. I should know – I was a #Predator target.
This does not make it normal. We need our governments and international bodies to protect us.https://t.co/RAq0ydlFr1
— Artemis Seaford (@ArtemisSeaford) March 20, 2023
“Like myself, many others who appear to have been targeted by Predator are ordinary citizens with no reasonable claim to being a “national security threat”. Many are politicians, businesspeople, and journalists,” she added.
“I hope is this story will encourage other victims of spyware abuse to speak out. There are more of us out there, and our stories should be neither instrumentalized nor silenced. We deserve better. Ultimately, we need our governments and EU bodies to protect us,” the Meta executive said.
Greece rocked by spyware scandal
The Predator spyware was central to the Greek wiretapping scandal, sometimes called the Greek Watergate.
This was a prolonged and en masse monitoring of the mobile phones of individuals prominent in the Greek political scene, including the president of the social democratic party, PASOK, Nikos Androulakis, the journalists Thanassis Koukakis and Stavros Michaloudis, as well as members of the government and close affiliates of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, among others.
The Greek government has denied using Predator and has legislated against the use of spyware, which it has called “illegal.”
“The Greek authorities and security services have at no time acquired or used the Predator surveillance software. To suggest otherwise is wrong,” Giannis Oikonomou, the government spokesman, said in an email to the NYT. “The alleged use of this software by nongovernmental parties is under ongoing judicial investigation.”
Related: Who Really Governs Greece? The Wiretapping Scandal Shaking the Country
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