Report: 2015 Twitter breach targeted Saudi dissidents, led to arrests

Report 2015 Twitter breach targeted Saudi dissidents led to arrests

Enlarge / Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Alexander Zemlianichenko / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL/AFP by way of Getty Images

The sister of a Saudi dissident has told Bloomberg {that a} 2015 breach by two Twitter workers enabled the Saudi authorities to unmask a number of nameless Twitter accounts whose tweets criticized the regime. The US federal authorities criminally charged the 2 rogue workers final November.

Abdulrahman al-Sadhan is a US-educated Saudi man who labored for the Red Crescent Movement—the Muslim world’s counterpart to the Red Cross. He additionally secretly ran a well-liked pseudonymous Twitter account with 1000’s of followers. The account criticized the Saudi authorities.

“It is clear this was a targeted attack on purpose on activists and critics on Twitter,” stated Areej al-Sadhan, Abdulrahman’s sister. “My brother, sadly, is a kind of who was focused.

According to Bloomberg, al-Sadhan was working in his workplace in Riyadh in 2018 when Saudi Arabia’s secret police took him into custody. His household hasn’t seen him since. They feared he was useless for nearly two years till he was allowed to make a telephone name in February.

The rogue Twitter workers allegedly accessed confidential info on not less than 6,000 Twitter accounts on behalf of the Saudi authorities. Human rights advocates imagine the hacks enabled the Saudi authorities to arrest not less than 5 individuals who ran pseudonymous Twitter accounts important of the regime.

“Saudi Arabia is spending millions of dollars on digital espionage and hacking the accounts of human rights defenders, critics, and opponents,” stated Gamal Eid, government director of the Egypt-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information.

The Saudi authorities has lengthy warned Saudis towards attempting to make use of anonymity as a protect once they criticize the federal government, as Bloomberg explains:

In August 2017, one among Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s then-closest advisers, Saud al-Qahtani, issued a warning by way of his personal verified Twitter account towards nameless Twitter accounts: “Does a pseudonym protect you from the #blacklist?” al-Qahtani wrote. “No.”

Al-Qahtani defined that governments might discover out the actual identities of individuals utilizing Twitter anonymously. He talked about “technical ways” of tracing folks’s IP addresses, in addition to a “secret I’m not going to say.”

Al-Qahtani has since been suspended from Twitter; he misplaced his authorities submit within the wake of the 2018 homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudis have been accused of concentrating on folks exterior of Saudi Arabia as effectively. Dissidents within the US and Canada have sued Twitter over the 2015 breach, arguing that they need to have been warned in regards to the Saudis concentrating on their accounts. In an unrelated incident final 12 months, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused the Saudi authorities of hacking into his telephone and acquiring racy photographs that wound up within the fingers of the National Enquirer.

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