The Greek national intelligence service used Predator spyware and wiretapped the phone of Artemis Seaford a US and Greek national, who worked as a trust and safety manager for Meta between 2020 to the end of 2022. A Citizen Lab report reviewed by The New York Times revealed that Seaford’s phone was in fact hacked with the predator malware since at least September 2021.
Seaford booked an appointment for a COVID booster shot in September 2021 through the Greek government’s vaccination platform and got an automated SMS with her appointment details on September 17. Five hours later, she received another message asking her to confirm the appointment. The message had an infected link that delivered the Predator malware payload to her phone.
The details in the text message were correct and it seemed to have come from the state vaccination agency with even the URL mimicking the vaccination platform. This indicates that someone had reviewed the authentic message earlier to make the malicious message sound and look as real as possible, tricking Seaford into clicking the link and eventually infecting her phone.
Snooping into its citizen’s life is starting to become a pattern for Greece and by extension, the rest of Europe. While this is the first case of an American citizen being snooped on in a European Union country, it goes to show that governments are willing to extend their surveillance to not only opposition leaders and journalists but foreign nationals as well.
The case comes to light as elections loom over Greece where the government has already been on shaky ground a wiretapping and illegal spyware scandal since 2022. Seaford is the fourth person to file a suit in Greece involving the Predator spyware in addition to two opposition party leaders and Thanasis Koukakis, an investigative reporter. As is the case with Seaford, none of these people know why, or to which extent were they targeted.
Koukakis had also asked the constitutional watchdog authorities in Greece to inform him whether or not he was wiretapped in 2020. However, before he could get an official response, the government passed a law making it extremely hard for citizens to find out whether or not they were being spied on by the country’s intelligence service.
While Koukakis has taken the Greek government to the European Court of Human Rights over the matter, it has also come under pressure to restore some resources for citizens to learn about surveillance and seek amends in case their surveillance was abusive.
While the government did not do much to resolve the situation other than blatantly stating that it doesn’t use any illegal spyware programs, it did release a law last year allowing citizens targeted by its spy agency to be informed, but only if they ask, subject to approval by a committee and no earlier than three years after the end of the wiretap.
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