A Cellebrite representative landed in Riyadh in November 2019 to hack a Samsung S10 phone for Saudi authorities, a Haaretz’s sister publication reports.

A man displays a screen at a stand of Cellebrite, an Israeli company that manufactures data extraction, transfer and analysis devices for cellular phones and mobile devices, at the annual European Police Congress in Berlin, Germany, February 4, 2020.
A man displays a screen at a stand of Cellebrite, an Israeli company that manufactures data extraction, transfer and analysis devices for cellular phones and mobile devices, at the annual European Police Congress in Berlin, Germany, February 4, 2020. (Reuters)

An Israeli firm was providing Saudi Arabia with technological services to hack mobile phones around the same time as Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi's killing in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

A representative of the Israeli-based company Cellebrite arrived in Riyadh from London on a commercial flight in November 2019 "to hack into a phone in the possession of the Saudi Justice Ministry," the TheMarker, a sister publication of Haaretz, said on Wednesday.

The company asked Saudi authorities to receive its representative at the airport to finish his arrival procedures without stamps in his passport and without inspection of his electronic equipment.

TheMarker said the request of the Saudi general prosecutor’s office in Riyadh was to hack a Samsung S10 phone, and when the job was completed, the representative flew back to London.

The phone's owner was not identified by TheMarker. Khashoggi owned an iPhone which was with his fiancee at the time of his death in the consulate in Istanbul.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia and the UAE hired Israeli hackers to spy on dissidents

Cellebrite

The report said Cellebrite was not the only Israeli company to provide hacking or other cybersecurity services to Saudi Arabia, but it is apparently the only firm to work without Israeli Defence Ministry oversight.

It noted that Cellebrite was also working in Saudi Arabia at the time of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing on October 2, 2018 in Istanbul. 

Another Israeli cyber firm, NSO, has been accused of providing remote cellphone hacking services to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The NSO Group approached Saudi Arabia with a system that enabled them to hack mobile phones months before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s infamous purge in 2017 that saw 159 Saudi princes and business leaders imprisoned in the Ritz-Carlton.

The accusation was, however, denied by NSO, but it continued to work with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic or official ties with Israel, unlike the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which signed normalization agreements Tuesday with Tel Aviv under US President Donald Trump's sponsorship.

READ MORE: UAE-Bahrain deal with Israel represents a tiny minority of the Arab world

Source: AA