A joint investigation by human rights organizations and IT security experts found that at least thirteen Armenian public figures and officials, including journalists and human rights activists, were targeted by Israeli NSO group Pegasus spyware during the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between November 2020 year to December 2022.
An investigation by Access Now, Citizen Lab, mobile security researcher Ruben Muradyan, CyberHUB-AM, in conjunction with Amnesty International’s Security Lab, suggests that the conflict may have been the reason for such surveillance.
Amnesty International’s security lab has detected infection in the devices of two journalists from the Armenian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Karlen Aslanyan and Astghik Bedevyan. Other victims include the Karabakh ombudsman, United Nations officials, a former spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, and seven other representatives of Armenian civil society.
Amnesty International received evidence that another spy product called Predator, developed by Intellexa, was deployed from a server infrastructure located in Armenia. Security researchers at Meta have also identified a likely Predator client in Armenia.
The investigation in Armenia began when Apple sent notifications to users in November 2021, warning them that they could be targeted with spyware. CyberHUB-AM and Access Now, with assistance from Citizen Lab, subsequently confirmed that some of these people’s Apple devices were infected with Pegasus.
Journalists, human rights activists and officials became victims of spyware
A study of the cases of the victims shows that the contamination of the devices was associated with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The first group of Pegasus infections in Armenia took place during the political crisis following the country’s defeat in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan and throughout the subsequent 2021. The second group of infections took place in 2022, coinciding with a serious escalation in the conflict zone and peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Sochi and Prague, as well as Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of the Lachin corridor since December last year.
During the first wave of Pegasus infections in Armenia, the investigation identified ten people who were targeted between 2020 and 2021, and 17 cases of successful infections of their mobile devices were identified.
Karlen Aslanyan and Astghik Bedevyan, journalists for Radio Azatutyun, the Armenian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, whose devices were infected in April and May 2021, respectively, when they
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