Amnesty International accuses Vietnam of spying on European Union and United States politicians. Predator spyware will be used for this purpose. The results show that European laws fail to regulate the sale of spyware.
In a report dated October 9, Amnesty International accused Vietnam of using the Predator spyware. This makes it possible to record audio and view messages on Android phones. There are no visible signs of spyware on the infected device, so the victim may not be aware of the presence of spyware.
Spyware installation is contactless and can be done by being physically near the victim. According to the human rights organization, the pollution occurred in a different way. Malicious links are said to have been spread on X via the already deleted account @JOSEPH_GORDON16. Clicking on the link will start the Predator installation process.
Through the In addition, other intended targets include United Nations officials, the President of Taiwan, United States Senators and Representatives, and other diplomatic authorities.
Predator is a product of the Intellexa Alliance. This concerns a group of European companies that sell spyware, whose practices were revealed on October 5 in another Amnesty International report. This report is the result of an investigation conducted by the European Investigative Cooperation (EIC), a partnership between various media organisations, in collaboration with Amnesty International’s Security Lab.
The organizations point out that the sale could take place despite espionage laws in Europe. These laws require governments that the sale of this software cannot occur until it is approved. According to the report, many governments have failed to follow these rules, including France and Greece. Although there are known cases where export controls have been circumvented. We note a nuance to the story regarding the potential debt incurred by EU countries. According to the report, the investigation into the Predator case took one year and began in 2022, while the European Union did not take action to curb spyware until 2023.
Read also: The European Parliament wants to restrict the use of spyware
“Intellexa Alliance products can be found in at least 25 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.” It appears that Switzerland, Austria and Germany have purchased the program within Europe. Consequently, the government of Vietnam had also purchased and deployed the software.
Nothing changed after Pegasus?
Intellexa claimed that it only sells spy products if the purpose of the purchase is justified. It markets itself as an “EU-based, regulated company”. However, in the meantime, the website of this alliance is offline.
NSO Group, provider of the Pegasus spyware, made a similar claim. In 2021, a joint investigation by several media organizations revealed that this spyware was being used to spy on journalists and activists. Evidence was later found that the spyware also targeted politicians from European institutions. These discoveries have led to tougher measures against spyware.
It now appears that these laws are not contributing significantly to the battle. “The ‘Predator Files’ investigation shows what we have long feared: that highly intrusive surveillance products are being commercialized on a near-industrial scale and are free to operate in the shadows, without oversight or any real accountability. Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “This proves once again that European countries and institutions have failed to effectively regulate the sale and transportation of these products.”
The discovery of Pegasus led to a years-long investigation by the European Parliament into the extent and consequences of this spyware. The magnitude of the new discovery may therefore be greater than currently proven.
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