Category Archives: Eastern Mediterranean// Méditerranée de l’Est

The Spy on Your Phone- Al Jazeera Investigation- and the role of Cyprus

A surveillance technology that can identify the location of a phone anywhere in the world in just seconds with only a telephone number has been detected in 25 countries. Spyware companies claim to sell their wares only to governments fighting crime and terrorism but it is all too easy for these tools to be used by repressive regimes to attack human rights.

NSO Group’s advanced Pegasus spyware was identified on phones of at least 36 journalists and media executives in July and August 2020, according to the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab, which said the surveillance product was installed via a vulnerability in the iPhone messaging application. Most targets were affiliated with the Qatar-headquartered Al-Jazeera media network, according to Al-Jazeera English; Citizen Lab said a journalist at London-based Al-Araby TV was also targeted.

The tech was supplied by the Israeli business Circles, claimed Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto organization that has long tracked the activities of surveillance companies. Circles is a sister company of NSO Group, an iPhone and Android spyware developer that is currently being sued by Facebook over attacks on the WhatsApp accounts of 1,400 users and has been criticized for selling to nations who went on to spy on activists, journalists and other.

According to Citizen Lab, the Circles tracking tool was detected in both Western, democratic countries, and nations with poor human rights records. The full list, according to Citizen Lab and neither confirmed nor denied by Circles, included:  Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Serbia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“Citizen Lab presents mounting evidence that for clients in the Middle East, the ability to spy on journalists and other critics is a feature, rather than a side benefit, of NSO Group’s surveillance products,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Advanced surveillance tools should not be sold without regulation to governments with a long history of abusing the press.”

CPJ requested comment from the NSO Group by email. Via an intermediary, the company declined to provide a statement that could be attributed to a named spokesperson. In a statement published by the The Guardian newspaper, NSO Group said: “As we have repeatedly stated we do not have access to any information with respect to the identities of individuals our system is used to conduct surveillance on. However, where we receive credible evidence of misuse, combined with the basic identifiers of the alleged targets and timeframes, we take all necessary steps in accordance with our product misuse investigation procedure to review the allegations.”

Spying in Circles

Circles was an independent intelligence agency vendor up until 2014, when it was acquired by private equity company Francisco Partners for $130 million and merged into a larger surveillance company. That umbrella organization also included NSO Group.

But Circles isn’t the only SS7 surveillance provider on the market. Cyprus-based Intellexa, set up by former Circles co-founder Tal Dilian, uses SS7 exploitation as one of its many tools to track a target. Israeli companies Verint, Rayzone and 1rstWAP offer similar services, according to one industry executive. Ability Inc., another Israeli firm, tried to take the tech global, but crashed out of the Nasdaq after failing to secure customers.

Those providers’ days should, in theory, be numbered, if they stick to solely doing SS7 attacks. The flaws that allow SS7 attacks to take place have long been fixable. The attacks are only possible because SS7, in its original form, doesn’t require any authentication to guarantee the legitimacy and safety of messages traversing the network. It would require some effort by global telecoms networks to address the flaws, but some efforts have been made to patch the vulnerabilities.  The U.K., for instance, recently proposed telecommunications security legislation that would grant a regulator the authority to ensure the nation’s networks are secure against SS7 attacks.

Cyprus is a hotbed for surveillance companies that sometimes set up shop in the country and then sell their technology from the region.

Controversial phone hacking company NSO Group has closed the Cyprus office of Circles, a surveillance firm that previously merged with NSO, and fired a number of staff, according to two former NSO employees.

Forbes reports back on 2019 that on a wildflower-lined gravel track off a quiet thoroughfare in Larnaca, Cyprus, Tal Dillian is ensconced in a blacked-out truck. It’s a converted GMC ambulance, pimped out with millions of dollars of surveillance kit, antennas on top reaching out to learn what it can from any smartphone within a 1-kilometer radius and, at the click of a button, empty them of all the content within. WhatsApp messages, Facebook chats, texts, calls, contacts? Everything? “Exactly,” says Dilian, a 24-year Israeli intelligence veteran and multimillionaire spy-tech dealer, though he doesn’t look it; imagine a shabbier, more hirsute George Clooney. Less Hollywood style, more avuncular chic.

He claims such tools are designed to snoop on terrorists, drug cartels and the world’s most egregious criminals. But that’s not always the case. Politicians, human rights activists and journalists have been targeted too. Most infamously, associates of Khashoggi and other Saudi Arabian activists were allegedly targeted by stealth iPhone spyware called Pegasus in the lead-up to his torture and slaughter in Istanbul. The mythically themed malware was coded by NSO Group, a company Dilian is closely associated with: His first surveillance business, Circles, merged with NSO in 2014, when U.S. private equity firm took control of both for a total of $250 million. NSO has since strenuously denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s death.

Sources :

  • Forbes, Thomas Brewster. This Surveillance Tool Can Find You With Just Your Telephone Number — Did These 25 Countries Buy It, Dec 1, 2020
  •, Committee to Protect Journalists, Dozens of journalists newly identified as NSO Group spyware targets, Dec 21, 2020
  • Forbes, Thomas Brewster :A Multimillionaire Surveillance Dealer Steps Out Of The Shadows . . . And His $9 Million WhatsApp Hacking Van, Aug 5 ,2019

Observing Istanbul, the Eternal Capital of the East

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Istanbul, Galata Bridge , May 2018

I had the incredible chance to visit Istanbul twice that year ,back in 2018 . Istanbul really is a place like no other. Spanning over two continents, the city’s exceptionally unique position is just one of the many ways Istanbul brims with juxtapositions. Although Turkey’s most-visited city exudes an eclectic modernity, the country’s deep-rooted history, culture and tradition still remains undeniably prevalent. For some who know very well the city, Istanbul still remains as the eternal capital of Turkey.

Life starts early in the morning at Galata Bridge in Istanbul. The unique spirit of the bridge is still preserved today—with fishermen, tourists, and tea and bagel salesmen.

The Galata Bridge is an Istanbul landmark that connects the newer parts of the city, including Karaköy and Beyoğlu, with the historic old parts of Eminönü and Sultanahmet. The bridge has been frequented by fishermen for over a decade, and boasts some of the city’s best fish vendors and views.

The bridge welcomes both professionals, those who have frequented it for years, amateurs, and enthusiastic beginners alike. Amateurs are eager to learn the right time and the right place to catch fish.

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Istiklal or Istiqlal CD, street Istanbul, May 2018

Built during the Ottoman Empire, the Istiklal street, literally the independance road, was originally known as Grande Rue de Pera, until it was renamed by the new Turkish Republic in the early 19th century. While today the street is pedestrian-dominated, it was once a dangerous high-speed automobile highway that fell into disrepair in the 1970s.

It wasn’t until the founding of the Republic of Turkey that this famous street received its third and present name.  Originally the street was simply called Grand Avenue (Cadde-i Kebir). With the arrival and settlement of non-Muslims and European foreigners in the 17th century, Istiklal Caddesi was referred to as ‘Grand Rue de Pera’.

Located in the historic Beyoğlu (Pera) district, it is an elegant pedestrian street, 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) long and Istanbul’s most elegant street , in my opinion, and home to the city’s smartest shops, various embassies and churches as well as fashionable residences and tea-houses. A street people wouldn’t dream of taking a stroll on wearing an ordinary pair of jeans.

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey.
The Blue Mosque, (Sultanahmet Camii), Istanbul, Turkey.

Istanbul is famous for its Mosques and Ottoman architecture. As the capital of the Ottoman Empire since 1453 and the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul is home to over 3000 mosques.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Turkish: Sultan Ahmet Camii), also known as the Blue Mosque. It’s known as a functioning mosque which also attracts large numbers of tourist visitors. It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains Ahmed’s tomb, a madrasah and a hospice. Hand-painted blue tiles adorn the mosque’s interior walls, and at night the mosque is bathed in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes.

 It sits next to the Hagia Sophia, the principal mosque of Istanbul until the Blue Mosque’s construction and another popular tourist site.

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In the pedestrian pavement of Ayia Sofia, Istanbul, May 2018
Hayia Sofia, Istanbul, front photo

Visitors are still welcome to Hagia Sophia, which remains the country’s most popular tourist attraction. Hagia Sophia, It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, the nation’s biggest tourist draw, and the contested religious center of both Christian and Muslim empires.

The architectural marvel—celebrated for its Byzantine architecture, elaborate mosaics, and religious importance to Christians and Muslims.

The Hagia Sophia that stands today was built in the sixth century as the cathedral for the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (also called the Byzantine Empire), and it became a mosque in 1453 with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. It remained a Muslim house of worship until 1934, when the Turkish government turned it into a museum.

Taksim Square, May 2018

The word Taksim means “division” or “distribution”. Taksim Square was originally the point where the main water lines from the north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other parts of the city (hence the name.) This use for the area was established by Sultan Mahmud I. The square takes its name from the Ottoman era stone reservoir which is located in this area.

Taksim is a main transportation hub and a popular destination for both tourists and residents of Istanbul. The Republic Monument (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Anıtı) , a notable monument located at Taksim was built to commemorate the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Istanbul, Taksim Square, credit New York Times
Istanbul, May 2018
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View from Hayia Sofia window, May 2018
Istanbul ferry, May 2018

It’s a well-known fact that the city of Istanbul is unique for spanning two continents. For very cheap, you’ll take a 10 minute ferry ride from Karakoy (Europe) to Kadikoy (Asia). If the weather is good then head out onto one of the outside decks for great views of Sultanahmet including Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Also keep your eyes on the water as you may see a few playful dolphins pop their heads up from time to time. Before you know it you will have docked at Kadikoy – welcome to Asia!

Thank you! Teşekkür ederim!

Why searching the truth for my homeland, Cyprus, became my reason to breathe again.

Beginning October, I had a very busy day, as for the previous years i was working in a very demanding environment. I was exhausted and as i was lying on my bed i did some researches regarding Cyprus, on duckduckgo and on twitter especially that day. From these two sources, i was finding information which was fulfilling my appetite for info and analysis i couldn’t find anywhere else at that moment.

That day, my life changed for ever… Few weeks later, i decided to do what i want to do most. Writing and do research through my blog and beyond. Maybe it will be difficult but i were always a dreamer.

How would you feel if you were living in an “aquarium” where your world is described and defined between the glass which pre-determinates your life?

We are all born and we carry some ideas or prejudices about people, groups, ideas far or more closed to us.

What if the world you’re living is all made of false “stars”?

Every human should know his/her real history. Unfortunately, big powers distorted history for some players, especially in the Near East.

Their bloodlust for control did and still are making victims. In this new world order (what they want to impose), the enemy is invisible, but is always there. They want to control all our lives but we have always to fight to keep a controlled distance between these curious eugenics observers and our private lives.

I wish that the “curiosity’ of these “machines” stops to know “all about our private life.

Unfortunately, for my country Cyprus, everything we knew until today from the history we’re teached at school, it seems more now as a well orchestrated propaganda, mostly of hate regarding Turkish people, honestly without a reason, today speaking.

The division of my country was orchestrated in the US during the Kissinger time. However, Kissinger was never accused of the crimes he made here, or in Vietnam and Chili. He continues to give advises to every single president of the US.

We have to open our eyes before its too late again. Our next generations deserve better, our lives deserve better than being experiments in the US’s world aquarium cinema or the New European Empire, which has nothing to do with the EU values declared to serve. It is quite obvious today, that the EU empire is servicing multinational interests and not values. Euro as currency destroyed the south of Europe and made a gap and rancor between the rich North and the poor South, but i believe that it was well orchestrated as well.

A lot of things were orchestrated with proofs, making surface little by little. The bail-in in 2013 was known for years before, the Annan plan of peace in Cyprus was made in that way that Greek-Cypriots would say no.

A very great thanks and big respect to an extraterrestrial friend who is always a great force of personal power for me. I wish i could give to that person the energy needed for the difficulties going through now!

As I say, we are all birds and we were born free! Birds don’t know borders and they are flying pirates all their lives.

Inequalities might lead to an end of the Eurozone

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 showed that the time for much closer, stronger European bonds had grown near. Hopes for a peaceful and prosperous future were higher than ever, among both leaders and citizens. This led to the signing of the Maastricht treaty, which formally established the European Union in 1993 and created much of its economic structure and institutions – including setting in motion the process of adopting a common currency, the euro.

The eurozone structure

The basic idea behind the structure of the Euro was that self-regulating markets would ensure prosperity across the Eurozone as long as:

  • Inflation was kept in check by the European Central Bank
  • Member States had fiscal discipline, keeping their public deficits and public debt low

For these purposes, the European Central Bank was given a sole mandate to hit a 2% inflation target – regardless of patterns of unemployment and economic activity across the Eurozone. Unlike other Central Banks such as the US Federal Reserve, its mandate does not include ensuring price stability and guaranteeing full employment. Only the former is within the realm of its mandate.

Similarly, the Stability and Growth Pact required member states to ensure that their public deficit was kept below 3% of their national income (GDP) and their public debt did not exceed 60% of GDP.

The crisis

Since the 2008 crisis, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Commission, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, along with other statistics institutions within the European Trade Union Confederation, have all agreed on this fact: In recent decades, social inequalities have increased significantly across Europe. And not only in Greece or Spain: the situation is the same in Sweden and Germany. In the past twenty-five years Swedish society has experienced a considerable growth in inequality; according to the OECD, between 1985 and 2008 the country recorded the highest growth of income poverty among industrialized countries.

After its implementation, the euro fairly quickly became the second most important currency in the world, but as of 2015, it has failed to supplant the U.S. dollar at the top of the world’s monetary heap.  Continue reading Inequalities might lead to an end of the Eurozone