Amnesty links Irish-based Intellexa to global spyware scandal

9 Oct 2023

Image: © Pablo Lagarto/

The Intellexa Alliance has a presence in Ireland and has been accused of developing ‘highly invasive’ spyware and selling it to authoritarian governments.

A new report by Amnesty International claims an Irish-based company is linked to a series of global spyware attacks.

Amnesty’s report – called the ‘Predator Files’ – claims these attacks have targeted civil society, journalists, politicians and academics. This report is linked to a year-long investigation coordinated by the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media network.

The report said these spyware attacks are linked to European-based companies that have been funding and selling cyber-surveillance tools for more than a decade “with the passive complicity of many European governments”.

The main entity investigated in the report is the Intellexa Alliance, which the EIC describes as an association of several European companies that develops and sells spyware called Predator to authoritarian states. This alliance includes a company that is based in Ireland with an office in Dublin.

A report by The Currency last year claimed the company is linked to a former member of Israel’s cyber warfare unit.

High-profile targets

Amnesty describes Predator as a “highly invasive” type of spyware that can gain access to devices without the user’s awareness, such as a device’s microphone, camera, contacts, messages, videos and photos.

The report claims that between February and June this year 2023, social media platforms such as X and Facebook were used to publicly target at least 50 accounts belonging to 27 individuals and 23 institutions. Some targets of the spyware include UN officials, a US senator and the presidents of the EU and Taiwan.

Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said the Intellexa alliance has done “nothing” to limit who is able to use its spyware “and for what purpose”.

“Instead, they are lining their pockets and ignoring the serious human rights implications at stake,” Callamard said. “In the wake of this latest scandal, surely the only effective response is for states to impose an immediate worldwide ban on highly invasive spyware.

“Let’s make no mistake, the victims are all of us, our societies, good governance and everyone’s human rights.”

This is not the first time fingers have been pointed at Intellexa and its Irish presence. Earlier this year, the Oireachtas Justice Committee was asked by Barry Andrews, MEP, to investigate Intellexa’s presence in Ireland, The Journal reported.

The company was also blacklisted by the US government for “acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests” of the country.

Last year, an EU lawmaker investigating spyware in Europe claimed several powerful European politicians could be involved in their use. This followed revelations in 2021 that military-grade spyware such as Pegasus was used to target journalists, activists and government officials in the EU.

Last month, Google fixed a zero-day vulnerability for the Chrome browser that was actively exploited by a commercial spyware vendor.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic