Two former workers of Twitter have been charged for obtaining personal account information on the behalf of the government in Saudi Arabia, reported by Washington Post. Most of the users were critics of the Saudi Arabian regime.
According to the charges leveled by U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had recruited two former Twitter employees to access private information from the journalist’ s Twitter accounts to benefit the Saudi Royal Family and their government.
They raised concerns that U.S. technology companies might be vulnerable to foreign governments.
In the criminal complaint, the U.S Justice Department charges that former Twitter employees Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen, and Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen, accessed Twitter data relating to critics of the Saudi government from their former company’s office in San Francisco. One of them was charged with accessing data of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts. This is the first time legal bodies have publicly charged individuals for spying for Saudia Arabia in the U.S.
The charges furthermore state that a Saudi official, who the Washington Post recognized as Bader Al Asaker, approached these two former employees and planted them as spies. Asaker heads a charity, the MiSK Foundation, having ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
There is also a third character in the plot, Ahmed Almutairi, who was used as an intermediary or mediator between Asaker and the spies. He managed a social media marketing company that too worked with the Saudi Royal Family and was also charged with espionage, the Justice Department said.
Amid all of these, a Twitter spokesperson gave a statement,
“We would like to thank the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for their support with this investigation. We recognize the lengths bad actors will go to try and undermine our service. Our company limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees”.
One of the accounts which get breached, has belonged to Saudi activist Omar Abdulaziz, whose smartphone had also been once hacked by the Saudi government, as per Forbes reported. The victim Abdulaziz was in contact with Washington Post late columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered by the Saudi government, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded after investigation.
One of the cyberpunks, Abouammo was arrested in Seattle, while authorities believe Alzabarah and Almutairi are in Saudi Arabia.