Revealed: Ugandan Govt. Deploys Israeli Spy Tool to Hack Citizen’s Phones

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. Credit Photo Reuters

By The African Exponent

In what critics have termed a damning revelation, it has been confirmed that a Spy Tool was deployed in a State-Sponsored hack of Ugandans – especially opposition figures and journalists.

Releasing official statements, two journalists and one politician – an opposition figure to the Yoweri Museveni-led government, have revealed that they received notification alert warning them of “state-sponsored” attacks on their iPhones.

Interestingly, the attacks have been linked to the powerful Israeli cyber espionage tool, Pegasus. However, experts and critics alike have opined that the high level of the spy tool involved already reveals that the government is behind the hack attempts; this is not the first time the Ugandan government has engaged in such acts.

To further confirm the claims, mobile phone giants Apple sent warning messages to two Ugandan journalists and an opposition figure last week that a state-sponsored surveillance entity may have hacked their phones, the targeted persons revealed.

Pegasus, the Israeli cyber espionage tool, is currently on the blacklist of many countries, including the United States of America. The revelations have now added the Ugandan government to the list of countries that have deployed the sophisticated Israeli-made spyware on its citizens.

In what seemed like further confirmations, the disclosure of the Apple warning notice to Ugandans informing them of the possible hack came one day after reports that American diplomats who visited Uganda had their mobile phones hacked with Pegasus.

The Pegasus tool is a high-level spyware specially designed to sneak into a user’s phone and give the invading party full undue access to the hacked device without being detected.

Although the Ugandan government did not formally confirm the attacks, it claimed that the American diplomats and the United States government took measures to protect sensitive information. “Like every large organization with a global presence, we closely monitor cybersecurity conditions, and are continuously updating our security posture to adapt to changing tactics by adversaries,” a department spokesman said in an emailed statement.

One of the affected persons, Raymond Mujuni, a Ugandan investigative journalist, said he had received an email from Apple on Nov. 23 warning that it believed he was “being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID.”

Another target, Canary Mugume, also a journalist and reporter, said he received a similar communication two days later, telling him that “these attackers are likely targeting you individually because of who you are or what you do.”

Ugandan opposition leader and former presidential candidate Norbert Mao, also confirmed he had received a message from Apple warning him that there were hack attempts on his mobile device.

You will recall that this is not the first time that government agencies in Africa have deployed a spy tool to target opposition figures and journalists. Rwanda, Burundi, and South Africa are among the countries who have engaged the services of foreign hacking organizations.

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