A member of the House of Lords is among more than 400 people whose UK mobile phone numbers appear in a leaked list of numbers identified by NSO Groups client governments between 2017 and 2019, the Guardian reported.
The Guardian said that the principal government responsible for selecting the UK numbers appears to be the United Arab Emirates, according to analysis of the data. The UAE is one of 40 countries that had access to the NSO spyware that is able to hack into and secretly take control of a mobile phone.
Dubai, the emirate city ruled by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, is also believed to have been an NSO client.
The phones of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter Princess Latifa, who launched a failed bid to escape Dubai in 2018, and his ex-wife Princess Haya, who fled the country and came to the UK in 2019, both appear in the data.
So too do the phones of several associates of both women including, in the case of Haya, mostly UK-based numbers.
As per The Guardian, those with UK numbers appearing on the list include:
Lady Uddin, an independent member of the House of Lords, whose number appeared on the data in both 2017 and 2018. She said if there was spying on members of parliament it would amount to “a great breach of trust” which “contravenes our sovereignty”.
A lawyer working for a London law firm advising Princess Haya. Haya is embroiled in a bitter custody battle with Sheikh Mohammed in the family division of the high court of justice.
John Gosden, a leading horse trainer based in Newmarket, who is also friend of Princess Haya, herself an international equestrian rider. Numbers for other people working for Haya’s security and PR team also appear in the data.
John Chipman, the chief executive of the defence thinktank the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which runs an annual conference in Bahrain, one of the UAE’s allies, The Guardian said.
Other high-profile UK names who appear on the list have already been named, such as Roula Khalaf, the editor of the Financial Times, who was deputy editor when her number appeared in the data in 2018. NSO later said that there were no attempted or successful Pegasus infections of Khalaf’s phone.
Exiled dissidents and supportive activists in the UK also appeared on the leaked list, which is bound to raise questions about the UAE, which is traditionally considered a British ally, and whose leading family, the rulers of Abu Dhabi, own the Premier League champions, Manchester City, the report said.
The UAE has become a fast-emerging cyber power, whose powerful surveillance capability is controlled by the family of its ruler, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, and in particular his brother, the national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, The Guardian said.