The journalist was informed of the breach of confidentiality of his communications and the violation of his mobile phone on 28 March 2022, when he received an official response from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory focused on the intersection of information and communication technologies, human rights and global security.
According to InsideStory review of the Citizen Lab's report, Thanasis Koukakis' phone device was infected with Predator spyware at least during the period between 12 July and 24 September 2021. The report was prepared following the technical analysis of a file extracted from the journalist's mobile phone and sent to the Canadian lab for analysis.
Access to Thanasis Koukakis' mobile phone was done with an apparently innocent SMS he received at noon on 12 July 2021 from a Greek mobile phone. "You know Thanasis on this subject," the message said, accompanied by a link to blogspot.edolio5 and one click was enough to install the spyware.
Once installed, this spyware turns the mobile phone into an advanced surveillance device. "Predator is a monitoring tool that gives its operator full and continuous access to the target mobile device. Predator allows the operator to export secret passwords, files, photos, web browsing history, contacts, as well as identity data (such as mobile phone information)," the same Citizen Lab document reads. "The Predator can take screen captures, record user input, as well as activate the device's microphone and camera. This allows attackers to monitor any actions on or near the device, such as conversations taking place in a room.
"In a well-functioning state, the surveillance of journalists is a matter of the functioning of democracy and the rule of law. The identification of the culprits is of paramount importance for the defence of individual rights, journalistic confidentiality and, ultimately, the independence of journalistic investigation," said JUADN in a statement. The union also called on its members to be extremely alert to any suspicious messages on their mobile phones that include misleading links.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "We strictly condemn all attempts to interfere with the private communications of journalists, which undermine the protection which people are entitled in their dealings with media professionals. The Greek government must launch a full investigation into this case. The international community must build a regulatory regime that allows the inspection and regulation of any organisation supplying products that can undermine journalists' fundamental freedoms ".
The Greek case is the latest of similar spying incidents which has come to attention of the IFJ in the recent months:
Jordan: Journalist spied on via Pegasus software - https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/press-releases/article/jordan-journalist-spied-on-via-pegasus-software.html