A UK lawyer has vowed to "persist" after being targeted by not one, but two shady intelligence organisations.
The London-based human rights lawyer, who asked not to be named, is involved in a US lawsuit against NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company whose clients have allegedly used its software to hack the phones of Mexican journalists and a Saudi dissident associated with the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Its advanced malware, known as Pegasus, was recently revealed to be capable of giving the user access to a target's phone simply by ringing them over WhatsApp. It was effective even if the target didn't answer the call.
"WhatsApp video calls could be used to deliver the payload of Pegasus", the lawyer told RollOnFriday, "and there were attempts to do this against my phone."
"Who exactly it is, is not clear", he said, only that they were "actors who use this technology and think they can benefit from accessing my data". He discounted the possibility a rival employer was using unorthodox methods to poach him. "I think they have much nicer ways of doing that", he said.
Tax lawyers don't face this sort of issue.
The lawyer said he has not just faced attempts to hack his phone. "Before that, there were attempts by Black Cube", he revealed, referring to the Israeli intelligence group which became infamous for attempting to entrap Harvey Weinstein's accusers on the disgraced movie mogul's behalf.
Black Cube targeted "a number of people who are either doing research on NSO, or doing legal work around NSO", said the lawyer, and "tried to lure them into meeting under false pretences, using false identities, and saying they they represented companies that did not exist. The idea was to extract information that's either useful for, probably, NSO, and that could derail all the research around it and all the legal work."
"I was targeted, but I knew that there was something really fishy about the whole thing”, he said, “so I did not go to any of the meetings, and I said 'I'm not interested'."
The lawyer still has the same phone. Asked if his conversation with ROF was likely to be replayed in a basement of spies in Riyadh, he said, "I doubt it. When the last attempt was made, the filter that blocks delivery of the payload was in place".
"It's upsetting", he said. "Of course you have moments when you think that it's a bit too much, but then at the end of the day you are on the right side, so you just persist with what you're doing."
The attempted hack could end up helping his case against NSO. "It's likely to be useful", he said. "At this stage we're considering all the options."