Thodoris Chondrogiannos 16 • 09 • 2022

Attempted hack of opposition MP Christos Spirtzis with illegal Predator spyware

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Attempted hack of opposition MP Christos Spirtzis with illegal Predator spyware
16 • 09 • 2022

On September 9, 2022, it was revealed that SYRIZA MP and former minister Christos Spirtzis was targeted with Predator spyware. The use of illegal wiretapping software in violation of the rule of law raises serious questions around the protection of the constitutionally guaranteed privacy of communications and the proper functioning of a democratic state.

On September 9, 2022, MP and former SYRIZA minister Christos Spirtzis filed a complaint with the Supreme Court, alleging that he had been targeted twice with the illegal Predator spyware.

The first attempt was made on November 15, 2021 with an SMS containing a fake link, and the second attempt was made four days later, again by way of a message containing a link to a malicious site. Whilst the first attempt was unsuccessful, as Mr. Spirtzis did not click on the infected link, Kathimerini reports that it has yet to be determined whether or not the second attempt successfully installed the spyware.

Predator is a powerful surveillance tool, allowing its operator full and permanent access to the target device. It enables the extraction of important information such as passcodes, files, photos, contacts and web browsing history, and can take screenshots. The operator can also activate the device’s microphone and camera, making it possible to monitor any activity through or near the device, such as conversations taking place in the same room as the device.

In Greece no legislative framework has been passed that provides for the use of spyware software such as Predator. Furthermore, the basic law governing the operation of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) does not provide for the use of such software (Law 3649/2008 – Government Gazette 39/Α’/3.3.2008). Therefore, the targeting and hacking of victims through Predator or any other similar spyware in Greece is completely illegal, whether done by the state authorities or by a private actor, and is in violation of Article 19 of the Constitution, which enshrines the absolute inviolability of communications.

The Greek government has denied any involvement with the use of Predator or any other malware, however they have yet to discover who is using Predator in Greece.

The scandal has so far led to the resignation of the Secretary General (and nephew) of the Prime Minister, Grigoris Dimitriadis, as well as the head of the Intelligence Service, Panagiotis Kontoleon. Parliament has mounted an inquiry to investigate.

Mounting evidence of illegal surveillance raises questions not only about the use of malicious software in Greece, but also about the modus operandi of the National Intelligence Service, for which the prime minister is institutionally responsible. Following his victory in the 2019 elections Kyriakos Mitsotakis placed the agency under his direct control (Official Gazette: Issue Α’/119/8.7.2019). The use of illegal surveillance software to monitor politicians and journalists raises issues not only for the rule of law, but also for the freedom of the press and essential democratic values.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

Although Article 19 of the Constitution enshrines the absolute inviolability of the privacy of communications, the attempted hack of MP Christos Spirtzis is yet more evidence of the use of the illegal Predator software in Greece, this time targeting a high ranking politician of the opposition.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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