W hat done lanew era of surveillance means for the work of investigative journalists? Last year I was preparing to fly from London to a country in the Middle East on a sensitive reporting trip. I wasn't worried about my own safety, but now I have to take extraordinary measures to protect the security of my data.
Bring my own laptop or personal phone was out of the question. Instead, I bought a brand new phone. I made sure I didn't log into any of my accounts from the phone and didn't save any numbers in the blank address book. Before leaving, I created a temporary email address specifically for this trip, where sources can reach me.
Counter-espionage in journalism was once the domain of journalists who looked intonational security issues or who liaised with sensitive government whistleblowers; but increasingly these tactics are needed at all levels.
With the rise of hacking services and the availability of government-level computer penetration software for anyone willing to pay a hefty price, journalists have never been so vulnerable to the blasting of their sources or the subversion of projects by those who hope to protect nefarious secrets. Anyone who believes in the value of investigative journalism holds powerful officials responsible should be worried about this global journalistic emergency.
When the Guardian contacted me to inquire about me. 'Explaining that my phone number was on a pulped data list, allegedly selected by the UAE, I was not surprised. With a colleague from the Wall Street Journal, where I workBut we reported in our book Bl Flood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman's ruthless quest for world power that Saudi Arabia's little neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, had purchased for up to three simultaneous licenses, from an Israeli company called NSO, for using powerful intrusion software for their government agencies.
I have been reporting for years on sensitive subjects related to the United Arab Emirates, in particular related to the 1MBD scandal involving a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, the UAE's ambassador to the United States and two of its sovereign wealth funds. I no longer have the phone I was using at the time my number appeared in the pulgated data, so I cannot suggest a device for forensic analysis - the only way to find out.See if there has been an attempted or successful hack into my phone using NSO's Pegasus spyware.
While the government who was allegedly interested in me was not surprising the name of the company was. Senior NSO executives have been giving background information to my former colleagues and others for years on how their powerful tools were designed to stop terrorists and could not be used against people like me. NSO explained how its "internal processes " protect against misuse of its software as late as May, in anticipation of a possible public offering of its shares.
One particularly infuriating phrase in the ONS apology lexicon is "contractually bound". In dismissing the claims, the company argued that the countries licensing the technology have agreed to sur paper not to abuse it.
In my career at the Wall Street Journal and as a freelance journalist at the company I co-founded This year, Project Brazen, I discovered that journalists covering everything from business to climate, war zones to government, should increase their alert level and take st eps to prevent cyber attacks. Every beat is susceptible to this threat as long as there are well-funded opponents willing to do whatever it takes to turn off the spotlight on journalism.
Journalists in places such as Mexico, Afghanistan and the Philippines face the gravest threats, including assassination and prison terms, for courageously speaking the truth. But all over the world - without exception in the US and UK - cybersecurity is a pervasive risk due to the privatization of info intrusions.rmatic and telephone.
I was lucky that the WSJ took the cybersecurity risk seriously and allowed me to replace my phone all six months when reporting on sensitive subjects. Yet even that is not enough.