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4 Aug 2020

Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian

Togo: Senior clergymen and civil society actors among Whatsapp users targeted by NSO spyware

"WhatsApp spyware attack: senior clergymen in Togo among activists targeted", 3 August 2020.

...A joint investigation by the Guardian and the French newspaper Le Monde can reveal that Bishop Benoît Alowonou and five other critics of Togo’s repressive government were alerted by WhatsApp last year that their mobile phones had been targeted with the spying technology...

WhatsApp has accused NSO Group in a US lawsuit of facilitating the attacks against the 1,400 users. NSO Group has denied the claim, saying its software is operated by the governments that purchase it. The company has said it cannot reveal the names of its clients, who it says are contractually obliged to use the software only against criminals and terrorists...

Four of those targets agreed to be named: Bishop Alowonou, a priest named Pierre Chanel Affognon, Raymond Houndjo, a close associate of a leading opposition politician, and Elliott Ohin, a former government minister who is in the opposition party. While it is not known who perpetrated the attacks against the Togolese targets, some of the victims have said they believed the Togolese government was likely to have been behind the surveillance effort...Pro-democracy activists in Togo have separately alleged that their efforts to organise themselves have been hobbled by what they suspect to be surveillance by the Togolese authorities...Members of the Roman Catholic church in Togo are among the president’s most strident critics, including Bishop Alowonou, who said he believed he was targeted because of his activism. “We sometimes say truths that irritate the powerful,” he said in an interview...

Part of the following timelines

WhatsApp sues Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group, accusing it of hacking the phones of human rights activists & journalists

NSO Group lawsuit (re hacking WhatsApp users)