Apple suing Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group

A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP)
A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 24 November 2021

Apple suing Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group

A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP)
  • Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras

RICHMOND, Virginia: Tech giant Apple announced Tuesday it is suing Israel’s NSO Group, seeking to block the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company from breaking into Apple’s products, like the iPhone.
Apple said in a complaint filed in federal court in California that NSO Group employees are “amoral 21st century mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant abuse.” Apple said NSO Group’s spyware, called Pegasus, had been used to attack a small number of Apple customers worldwide.
“State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.
NSO Group has broadly denied wrongdoing and said its products have been used by governments to save lives.
“Pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it. NSO group will continue to advocate for the truth,” the company said in a statement.
It’s the latest blow to the hacking firm, which was recently blacklisted by the US Commerce Department and is currently being sued by social media giant Facebook.
Security researchers have found Pegasus being used around the world to break into the phones of human rights activists, journalists and even members of the Catholic clergy.
Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras. Researchers have found several examples of NSO Group tools using so-called “zero click” exploits that infect targeted mobile phones without any user interaction.
The Biden administration announced this month that NSO Group and another Israeli cybersecurity firm called Candiru were being added to the “entity list,” which limits their access to US components and technology by requiring government permission for exports.
Also this month, security researchers disclosed that Pegasus spyware was detected on the cellphones of six Palestinian human rights activists. And Mexican prosecutors recently announced they have arrested a businessman on charges he used the Pegasus spyware to spy on a journalist.
Facebook has sued NSO Group over the use of a somewhat similar exploit that allegedly intruded via its globally popular encrypted WhatsApp messaging app. A US federal appeals court issued a ruling this month rejecting an effort by NSO Group to have the lawsuit thrown out.
Apple also announced Tuesday that it was donating $10 million, as well as any damages won in the NSO Group lawsuit, to cybersurveillance researchers and advocates.


Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace
Updated 24 January 2022

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace

Meta to integrate WhatsApp with Workplace
  • Update aims to ease communication between businesses, front-line workers

DUBAI: Meta will launch the integration of WhatsApp with its Workplace platform, with the aim of easing communication between business and employee, especially front-line workers.

The new update, which will release later this year, will allow companies to share posts from Workplace over WhatsApp. The announcement comes on the back of a research report, “Deskless Not Voiceless,” which surveyed 7,000 front-line workers and 1,350 C-suite executives in seven countries.

An overwhelming 94 percent of C-suite executives said that they need to start prioritizing front-line tech in the way that they have historically prioritized office and desk-based technology.

Almost half (45 percent) of front-line workers said that they feel disconnected from their company’s headquarters. Moreover, 75 percent do not completely trust their employers to be transparent about company news and updates.

“At Workplace, we strongly believe that the most successful organizations empower their front-line employees to make a difference and listen to their ideas. So it’s disappointing to see there’s still a clear disconnect between the front line and HQ in 2021,” said Ujjwal Singh, Workplace head of product.

“Our integration with WhatsApp is designed to help fix that,” he added.

Virgin Atlantic and AstraZeneca both use Workplace to stay connected with employees.

“Our front-line teams — whether on the ground or in the skies — are constantly on the move; Workplace allows them to remain connected to Virgin Atlantic, wherever they are in the world and whenever suits them,” said Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic.

AstraZeneca started using Workplace as a test for its global manufacturing and supply teams in 2017 and rolled it out across the entire company by 2018. Today, 70,000 employees in 10 countries use the platform as a way to stay in touch and share ideas.

For example, the company held an event on Workplace, which saw employees submit 56,000 ideas in two weeks, and another event designed to understand lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in 24,000 ideas being shared.

“Workplace has been key to AstraZeneca’s high employee engagement rates by helping us drive tangible change and adjust to the changing nature of how we all work,” said Alun Metford, head of internal communications at AstraZeneca.

“It will play a central role as we adjust to the next normal,” he added.


BBC Arabic accused of withholding guest pay for 2 years

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
Updated 23 January 2022

BBC Arabic accused of withholding guest pay for 2 years

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year. (Screenshot)
  • “The important matter I want to discuss now is that BBC Arabic hasn’t paid us any dues for two years,” Political analyst Mehdi Eliefifi said

LONDON: BBC Arabic was accused last week of not paying its contributors for two years after one of its guests cut a live interview to raise the issue.

Political analyst Mehdi Eliefifi was invited to speak on a BBC Arabic newscast about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict when he cut his commentary in order to raise the failed payments issue.

“The important matter I want to discuss now is that BBC Arabic hasn’t paid us any dues for two years,” he said, in reference to analysts appearing on the channel’s program.

He then held a piece of paper in front of the camera, on which the names of the channel’s officials were written in English and Arabic, as well as the question “where are my financial dues that haven’t been paid for two years?”

BBC Arabic issued a statement to Arab News and on Twitter, saying: “To clarify the issue of the symbolic payments owed to some of the BBC’s guests, we conducted further investigations and we are aware of a technical defect in the payment mechanism within the institution, which led to the delay in the dues of some guests.

“Therefore, we apologize for the delay to all those affected by this matter and assure that we are working hard to solve this case as soon as possible.”

The BBC’s English-language service declined to comment on the matter while it “looked into the technical issue.”

BBC Arabic was also embroiled in another controversy last year, when an investigation by The Jewish Chronicle titled “Shame of BBC Arabic as systematic bias revealed,” highlighted the Arabic-language news channel’s consistent use of antisemitic and “Hamas-inspired language.”

However, a BBC spokesperson strongly rejected claims of compromised impartiality and said: “BBC Arabic shares exactly the same principles of accuracy and impartiality as BBC News in English.”


Turkish court orders imprisonment of journalist Sadaf Kabas for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
Updated 23 January 2022

Turkish court orders imprisonment of journalist Sadaf Kabas for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Kabas, who was taken into custody as part of an investigation launched against her on the charge of insulting the President, was referred to the court for processing. (Anadolu)
  • The law on insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years

ANKARA: A Turkish court on Saturday ordered well-known journalist Sedef Kabas to be jailed pending trial on a charge of insulting President Tayyip Erdogan, CNN Turk said, targeting her with a law under which tens of thousands have been prosecuted.

Police detained Kabas at around 2 a.m. (2300 GMT) and took her first to Istanbul's main police station before transferring her to the city's main courthouse, where a court subsequently ruled in favour of her formal arrest, the broadcaster said.

The alleged insult was in the form of a palace-related proverb that Kabas expressed both on an opposition television channel and on her Twitter account, drawing condemnation from government officials.

"The honor of the presidency's office is the honor of our country... I condemn the vulgar insults made against our president and his office," Fahrettin Altun, head of Turkey's Communications Directorate, wrote on Twitter.

Merdan Yanardag, chief editor of the Tele 1 channel on which Kabas made the comment, sharply criticised her arrest.

"Her detention overnight at 2 a.m. because of a proverb is unacceptable," he wrote on Twitter. "This stance is an attempt to intimidate journalists, the media and society."

The law on insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years.

Last October, Europe's top human rights court called on Turkey to change the legislation after ruling that a man's detention under the law violated his freedom of expression.

Thousands have been charged and sentenced over the crime of insulting Erdogan in the seven years since he moved from being prime minister to president.

In 2020, 31,297 investigation were launched in relation to the charge, 7,790 cases were filed and 3,325 resulted in convictions, according to Justice Ministry data. Those numbers were slightly lower than the previous year.

Since 2014, the year Erdogan became president, 160,169 investigations were launched over insulting the president, 35,507 cases were filed and there were 12,881 convictions.


MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel
Updated 22 January 2022

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel

MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin condemns media bias towards Israel
  • MSNBC and Peacock TV host discusses why paying attention to “smaller” stories between Israel and Palestine explains the wider conflict

DUBAI: MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin repeatedly condemned the mainstream media bias towards Israel, saying “the media only pays attention when war breaks out between Israel and Hamas.”

During his segment on Peacock TV, Mohyeldin discussed a number of "small" stories that went under the radar including the American citizen who was found dead after being held in Israeli custody and the anti-occupation activist killed after being struck by an Israeli police truck.

Last week, a prominent activist named Suleiman al-Hathaleen from the South Hebron Hills was hit by a police tow truck after blocking its path, dying a few days later after succumbing to his wounds.

Meanwhile, an elderly Palestinian American named Omar Assad Majid this month died shortly after being detained by Israeli forces. Reports suggest he died of a heart attack while in handcuffs.

Mohyedldin demanded an investigation of his treatment, blasting the US’ mild response to the matter after it said it was seeking “clarification” from Israeli authorities.

“If this would have happened in the UK, is that all we would have said? That we're seeking clarification?” he wondered aloud.

Finally, Mohyeldin touched on the latest eviction in Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli police destroyed this week a Palestinian family’s home that has been at the center of an anti-forced expulsion campaign in the town east of Jerusalem.

“If you want to understand why those larger conflicts erupt [between Israel and Hamas], you must first pay attention to these “smaller” stories that go under the radar,” he said. 


Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shareholders approve business combination with Anghami

Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2022

Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shareholders approve business combination with Anghami

Vistas Media Acquisition Company shareholders have approved a business combination with Anghami. (Supplied)
  • Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shares rose more than 20 percent in premarket trading on Friday

NEW YORK: Shareholders of Vistas Media Acquisition Co. on Wednesday voted to approve a business combination with Anghami, one of the leading music streaming platforms in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The proposal was supported by approximately 98 percent of the publicly traded special-purpose acquisition firm’s shareowners.

The special meeting vote followed last year’s announcement by the companies of the launch of Vibe Music Arabia, a joint venture record label between Sony Music Entertainment Middle East, and Anghami.

Vistas Media Acquisition Co. shares rose more than 20 percent in premarket trading on Friday after the approval announcement, according to Market Watch.