How the Global Spyware Industry Spiraled Out of Control

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Just off the coast of East Africa, Madagascar is the world’s fourth-poorest nation. It struggles with corruption, especially in the mining and oil industries that bring in billions a year for corporations. Malagasy officials did not comment.

In Greece, Predator is also at the center of a domestic political maelstrom.

The saga began in April, when the Greek outlet Inside Story reported that Predator had been used to infect the phone of a local investigative reporter. The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab forensically found the infection. Two opposition politicians soon confirmed that they, too, had been targeted, each with forensic evidence to back the claims.

All three suspect that the Greek state ordered their surveillance and have filed lawsuits. Thanasis Koukakis, an investigative reporter, has sued Mr. Dilian and his Intellexa associates.

The conservative prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has denied ordering surveillance using Predator and maintains that the Greek government does not own the spyware. Lawmakers are debating — and are expected to approve — legislation that would impose a two-year minimum prison sentence for the sale, use or distribution of commercial spyware.

Fallout from the spyware scandal caused Mr. Mitsotakis’s nephew, who had political oversight of the national intelligence service, to resign l in August, although he denies any role in it. Around the same time, the prime minister fired the national intelligence chief.

The same month, Intellexa dismissed most of its Athens-based staff.

In November, Mr. Mitsotakis admitted that somebody is running covert operations using Predator inside Greece — he just does not know whom.

“To be clear, I never claimed — and the government has never claimed — that there were no hacks and no forces using the Predator software,” he said, adding: “There’s illegal spyware all over Europe.”

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