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Guardian 'targeted by Saudi hacking unit' after Khashoggi murder

An internal memo indicated the Guardian was a target for a Saudi cybersecurity team. [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 June, 2019

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British newspaper the Guardian says it was warned earlier this year that a Saudi cybersecurity unit had been ordered to 'hack' its computer networks.

British newspaper the Guardian says it was warned earlier this year that a Saudi cybersecurity unit had been ordered to "hack" its computer networks.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that a source in Riyadh had initially alerted the newspaper that it was being targeted following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The newspaper later received a copy of a confidential internal order in Arabic instructing a technical team in Saudi Arabia to carry out the "penetration" of the Guardian's computer servers "in complete secrecy".

The order was reportedly signed by Saud al-Qahtani, an ex-senior aide to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Guardian reported.

Qahtani was supposedly fired from his position as a royal court adviser and media consultant by Saudi King Salman after intelligence gathered by Turkish authorities pointed to his leading role in orchestrating the murder of Khashoggi.

Before the Khashoggi killing, Qahtani had an overwhelming influence on Saudi affairs. He is dubbed "Lord of the Flies" by many Saudis for commanding an online army of 3,000 trolls to intimidate and attack dissenters on social media.

Since learning about the alleged threat of a Saudi cyber attack, the Guardian said it has contacted Saudi authorities for comment, but they have not responded.

Saudi diplomats, however, raised doubts about the authenticity of the internal document and asked the Guardian to share it so they could "investigate".

The Guardian report did not say whether any attempts to access its networks had been reported.

The British newspaper said that it first became aware of any potential hacking threat after publishing a highly sensitive story in March this year describing tensions between Saudi Arabia's King Salman and his son Mohammed bin Salman.

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