Predator – The Greek spyware scandal

Predator: The Greek Government is on the ropes in the wake of the recent spyware scandal, which has sparked an uproar.

The political crisis began when the Socialist Party (PASOK) leader Nikos Androulakis denounced that his phone had been tapped. But this wasn’t the only case. The Greek journalist, Thanasis Koukakis, has also denounced that his phone calls are monitoring.

National Intelligence Service’s chief (EYP), Panagiotis Kontoleon, and the PM’s chief of staff, Grigoris Dimitriadis, resigned after the uproar that was caused by the tapping scandal. The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, admitted that the EYP monitored Mr. Androulakis’s cell phone. Still, he said that he was unaware of seeking to distance himself from the growing political scandal.

“What took place may have been lawful, but it was a mistake. I did not know, and obviously, I would have never allowed it,” said Mitsotakis in a video speech to the nation. “Apart from the fact that everything was done lawfully, EYP underestimated the political dimension of this particular case,” the Greek PM noted, admitting that the move “was formally adequate but politically unacceptable.”

The European Commission continues to “monitor closely” the developments in the Greek spyware scandal, as confirmed by Christian Wigand, the spokesperson for justice and the rule of law. As he said, the EU received a response from the Greek authorities on the use of spyware and the “possible interplay between EU data protection rules and the national security framework.”

Greece’s Parliament resumed operation earlier than scheduled and before the end of summer break due to the growing political scandal.


A spyware scan revealed the tapping

PASOK leader, who has been a member of the European Parliament since 2014, Nikos Androulakis, discovered that there was an attempt to tap his phone with the Predator spyware by using the European Parliament service to detect spyware.

After the recent Pegasus scandal, which revealed the monitoring of political leaders, journalists, and activists in various countries, the European Parliament created a Special Service through which MEPs could check their mobile devices for possible infections from illegal surveillance software.

According to Androulakis, after a detailed spyware scan on his phone, he received a message in Greek in September 2021 inviting him to click on a link. According to a detailed report from the Citizens Lab of the University of Toronto, this link is used as bait to install the Predator spyware. Androulakis also filed a criminal complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Supreme Court in Athens.

“Revealing who is behind such sick practices and for whom they act is not a personal matter. It is my democratic duty,” said Androulakis. “Throughout my journey, I have learned to fight in transparency, in the light, in the spotlight, because transparency is a required element of the smooth functioning of our political system. That is why in this dark case, I am not going to compromise with half-measures and evasions”.

The Predator software

Predator is a surveillance tool that gives its operator full and permanent access to the target’s device. Predator allows the operator to extract passwords, files, photos, web browsing history, contacts, and identity data (such as mobile device information). Predator can take screenshots [screen captures], record user entries [on their mobile], and activate the device’s microphone and camera. This enables attackers to monitor any action on or near a device, such as conversations in a room. Predator also allows its operator to record text messages sent or received (including those sent via “encrypted applications”) as well as simple and VoIP phone calls (including telephone conversations via “encrypted” applications).

Investigations into phone surveillance in Greece are in full swing, with opposition parties in the Greek Parliament calling for establishing a special committee to investigate the case. The Greek Government describes Androulakis’ case as “legitimate” monitoring for “national interests” without revealing any further information.

Right now, there is an intense political upheaval caused by the spyware scandal in Greece. As long as the investigations are in full progress, there is a possibility that new cases of surveillance of Greek politicians, journalists, or even activists may arise.

George Mavridis is a freelance journalist and writer based in Greece. His work primarily covers tech, innovation, social media, digital communication, and politics. He graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication. Also, he holds an MA in Media and Communication Studies from the Malmö University of Sweden and an MA in Digital Humanities from the Linnaeus University of Sweden.