By Murray Hunter
BANGKOK, Thailand--With the recent revelations that the Thai government has been using surveillance software to track and monitor its citizens in the name of national security, Malaysia should not escape scrutiny. In Thailand, the Israeli designed Pegasus spyware is being utilized against student protestors and other activists opposed to the military backed Prayuth Chan-o-cha government.
Documents submitted to an Israeli court in 2018 revealed that the Malaysian Special Branch was supplied surveillance software from Senpai Technologies Ltd., operating within Israel. According to a report the program was designated “Project Magnum”, with the deal being done through a Cypriot conduit company Kohai Corporation Ltd.
The software supplied called RogueEye collects information on people from public domain online sources, including social media, collating all information into reports on individuals. The system uses fake identities on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, etc. to fish and search for information. RogueEye also has the capability to collect information from mobile phones.
Citizen Lab within Toronto University reported back in 2020 alleged the Malaysian Government is a customer of the Israeli spyware firm NSO Group which supplies the notorious spyware Pegasus. Pegasus is remotely installed on mobile phones and can read text messages, track phone calls, collect passwords, and provide location tracking.
Pegasus has been very controversial and reported to have been used by intelligence agencies across the world to target journalists and activists.
An informer within the Special Branch, who identifies himself as Khalid said that the Israeli made Pegasus spyware is used to track and monitor conversations on mobile phones of;
·Federal and state ministers and exco members,
·Federal and state MPs and ADUNs,
·Social and political activists,
·Corporate identities of interest,
·Those involved in organized crime, and
·Certain media portals.
Some of this is routine surveillance, while other mobile phones are hacked when they become of interest to the Special Branch. According to Khalid, the Israeli spyware is also used by the Prime Minister’s Department.
This hi-tech surveillance has been going on since 2014, replacing other more cumbersome methods that required physical microphones to ease-drop on people of interest. There is a section within the Special Branch that specializes on audio and video surveillance of Malaysian citizens.
If the above allegations are true, then the Malaysian Special Branch is clearly acting extrajudicially in their surveillance of Malaysian citizens. Surveillance of publicly elected people is a direct affront to the democratic system.
The use of these spyware tools appears to not have been in the call of national security, but to ease drop and monitor political groups outside the government. In the times of the Najib administration, there is indeed the possibility the spyware was used to suppress the 1MDB scandal.
Finally, the government appears to have ignored their own boycott of Israel by acquiring spyware from Israeli owned companies, operating within Israel.
Malaysian Authorities Using Spyware To monitor Citizens
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