Israeli PEGASUS Spying on Journalists, Activists Worldwide
Private Israeli firm NSO Group, through its PEGASUS spyware, exposed for the astounding breadth of surveillance of journalists and human rights campaigners.
According to an investigation led by "The Washington Post" and 16 media partners, military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives, and the two women closest to the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media foundation, and Amnesty International, a human rights organization, had access to a list of over 50,000 phone numbers, which they provided to news media for additional investigation and analysis. The phones were forensically examined by Amnesty International's Security Lab.
The investigation discovered that 37 targeted smartphones were found on a list of more than 50,000 numbers concentrated in countries known to engage in citizen surveillance and also known to have been clients of NSO Group, a top Israeli firm in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry.
The numbers on the list are unattributed, but via research and interviews on four continents, reporters were able to identify more than 1,000 people from more than 50 countries. Several members of the Arab royal families, at least 65 corporate leaders, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, and over 600 politicians and government officials, including cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and military officers, have all been targeted.
More than 15,000 phone numbers on the list were in Mexico, including those belonging to lawmakers, union members, journalists, and other government adversaries.
A substantial number of people were found in West Asia, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Yemen, knowing that NSO clientele is said to include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Other countries were also involved, according to the same report.
On its part, Amnesty International has openly condemned NSO's spyware business and backed a lost case in an Israeli court to have the company's export license canceled. Following the start of the investigation, numerous consortium reporters discovered that they or their family members had been effectively targeted by Pegasus malware.
Meanwhile, the #PegasusProject hashtag went viral on Twitter, as people from all over the world described the Israeli firm hacking services as a "crime".
#Pegasus use is hacking, not “authorised interception” or tapping. Hacking is a crime, whether it’s done by individuals or govt— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) July 18, 2021
Govt has to expressly disclose or deny only 2 things:
1 Did you use NSO spyware or not?
2 Did you target specific people named in news reports? 1/2