Journalists appear to have been prone to a particularly sophisticated digital spy campaign. According to to the Guardian, Citizen Lab discovered that operators using NSO Group software, dubbed Kismet, hacked the iPhones of 37 journalists (most Al Jazeera) using an iMessage vulnerability that had been present for about a year. the zero clicks the attacks left no trace and reportedly provided access to passwords, microphone audio, and even photos taken.
The exact motivations are unclear, but four operators appear to have origins Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and, in at least two cases, acted on behalf of the government. A victim, Al ArabyRania Dridi, believed she might have been a target because of her discussions on women’s rights and her connection to fervent criticism of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A target reportedly received spyware links such as those used to spy on Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor in 2016.