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META Manager was hacked with spyware and wiretapped in Greece

U.S. and Greek national, Artemis Seaford, who worked on Meta’s security and trust team while based in Greece was placed under a yearlong wiretap by the Greek national intelligence service and hacked with a powerful cyberespionage tool, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and officials with knowledge of the case.

The disclosure is the first known case of an American citizen being targeted in a European Union country by the advanced snooping technology, the use of which has been the subject of a widening scandal in Greece. It 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.

The latest case centers on Artemis Seaford, a Harvard and Stanford graduate, who worked from 2020 to the end of 2022 as a trust and safety manager at Meta, the parent company of Facebook, while partly living in Greece.

In her role at Meta, Ms. 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 The New York Times, found that Ms. 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.

Ms. Seaford on Friday filed a lawsuit in Athens against anyone found responsible for the hack. The suit compels prosecutors to open an investigation.

Ms. Seaford also filed a request with the Greek Authority for the Protection of the Privacy of Telecommunications, an independent constitutional watchdog, asking them to determine whether the Greek national intelligence service, known as the EYP, had wiretapped her phone.

Two people with direct knowledge of the case said that Ms. Seaford had in fact been wiretapped by the Greek spy service from August 2021, the month before the spyware hack, and for several months into 2022.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because it is illegal for them to publicly comment on EYP operations.

It could take a minimum of three years for Ms. Seaford to be informed of the spy agency wiretap under Greek laws that the government has twice changed since a flurry of wiretapping cases have come to light.

In September 2021, Ms. Seaford booked an appointment for a booster shot of the Covid-19 vaccine through the official Greek government vaccination platform.

She got an automated SMS with her appointment details on Sept. 17, just after midnight. Five hours later, at 05:31 a.m., documents show, she received another SMS asking her to confirm the appointment by clicking on a link.

This was the infected link that put Predator in her phone. The details for the vaccination appointment in the infected text message were correct, indicating that someone had reviewed the authentic earlier confirmation and drafted the infected message accordingly.

The sender also appeared to be the state vaccine agency, while the infected URL mimicked that of the vaccination platform.

Ms. Seaford is now is the fourth known person to file suit in Greece involving the spyware, after an investigative reporter and two opposition politicians.

The simultaneous tapping of the target’s phone by the national intelligence service and the way she was hacked indicate that the spy service and whoever implanted the spyware, known as Predator, were working hand in hand.

The latest case comes as elections approach in Greece, which has been rocked by a mounting wiretapping and illegal spyware scandal since last year, raising accusations that the government has abused the powers of its spy agency for illicit purposes.

The Predator spyware that infected the device is marketed by an Athens-based company and has been exported from Greece with the government’s blessing, in possible breach of European Union laws that consider such products potential weapons, The New York Times found in December.

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. “The alleged use of this software by nongovernmental parties is under ongoing judicial investigation.”

European Union lawmakers have launched their own investigation.

Full story at New York Times

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One comment

  1. Funny that a company -META- that spies on everybody that has facebook, complains about being spied on. Yeah, the spying scandal in Greece is big but these big tech companies spy on everybody.