In an interview with As It Happens with Nil Köksal, Chris Howden on CBC Radio, Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert discussed Jamal Khashoggi’s widow Hanan Elatr’s lawsuit against Israeli spyware company NSO. Hanan Elatr Khashoggi claimed in a civil lawsuit lodged with the Northern District of Virginia that NSO “intentionally targeted” her devices and “caused her immense harm, both through the tragic loss of her husband and through her own loss of safety, privacy, and autonomy.”

Ron explains how Citizen Lab learned that Hanan’s device had spyware installed on it: “Someone typed in a website that was used to install Pegasus when her phone was not in her possession when Hanan was interrogated at the Dubai airport and the phone communicated several times with a server that is part of the NSO infrastructure,” he said. When trusted devices become an “enemy,” Ron notes that it has a “psychological and emotional toll on victims and some of the victims carry a huge amount of emotional guilt,” illuminating the psychological cost of spyware. 

Speaking about how the US executive order has altered cybersecurity and what needs to be done more, he says, “Executive order is a big deal and prohibits US federal agencies from purchasing spyware that presents a national security risk or is involved in human rights abuses. Countries like Canada and others  should follow suit.”