Latvia-based Russian journalist says her phone was hacked

British newspaper The Guardian reported September 25 on an alleged hacking incident involving a Latvia-based independent Russian journalist.

According to the paper, which also operates a popular global news portal, the victim of the hack was Galina Timchenko of the Meduza news portal which is consistently critical of the Russian regime. Timchenko has been living and working in Latvia since 2014 and Meduza is widely regarded as a credible journalistic outlet with high standards, one of several independent Russian media that have found refuge in Latvia. 

"Galina Timchenko and Ivan Kolpakov, the founder and current editor-in-chief of Meduza... said new circumstantial evidence pointed to an EU state as the likely perpetrator behind the hacking of Timchenko’s mobile phone in Berlin earlier this year, which occurred in February shortly before she participated in a meeting of exiled Russian journalists," reported The Guardian.

The nature of the "circumstantial evidence" was not specified, but it was claimed that "An investigation by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and Access Now later confirmed with a high degree of certainty that Timchenko’s phone – which uses a Latvian country code – was hacked by a government user of Pegasus, a sophisticated spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group."

Latvia, Estonia, Germany and the Netherlands are all believed to possess or have possessed the Pegasus system, which is intended for use in cases of serious suspected crime. Other clients of NSO are believed to include Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. According to the investigation, the spyware was installed on Timchenko's cellphone at a meeting of exiled Russian journalists in Berlin in February this year.

LSM's Latvian language service reported on the incident nearly two weeks ago, at which time Latvia's State Security Service (VDD) denied any knowledge of it.

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