Spyware Removal | Journalists And Activists Were Spied On By Firm: Leaked targeting data shows that military-grade malware from Israel’s notorious NSO Group is being used to spy on journalists, human rights activists, and political dissidents.
From a list of over 50,000 cellphone numbers obtained by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with 16 news organizations, journalists identified over 1,000 people in 50 countries allegedly targeted for surveillance by NSO clients.
Members of the consortium include 189 journalists, over 600 politicians and government officials, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activist The journalists work for Reuters, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, and The Financial Times.
Spyware Removal | Journalists And Activists Were Spied On By Firm
Spyware Installed On Phone
Amnesty also revealed that just four days after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, had NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware installed on her phone. The company had been implicated in other Khashoggi spying.
In an email to the AP, NSO Group denied ever keeping “a list of potential, past or existing targets.” Hence full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.
It only sells to “vetted government agencies” to fight terrorism and significant crimes and has no access to its customers’ data.
Claims |Spyware Removal
Critics dispute that claim, pointing to evidence that NSO directs the high-tech spying. They claim the repeated abuse of Pegasus spyware highlights the industry’s near-total lack of regulation.
The source of the leak and verifies are not revealed. However, the consortium believes the data indicates potential targets of NSO’s government clients.
The Post identified 37 hacked smartphones. Therefore Guardian reported that Amnesty found Pegasus infections on 15 journalists’ phones who let their phones be examined after discovering their numbers were in the leaked data.
What List Includes?
The list had 15,000 Mexican phone numbers, with a large Middle Eastern share. In the Middle East and Mexico, NSO Group spyware has been linked to targeted surveillance.
NSO reportedly has clients in Saudi Arabia. The lists included phones from France, Hungary, India, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan.
The number of journalists target shows how Pegasus use to intimidate critical media. It’s about controlling the public narrative, avoiding scrutiny, and silencing dissenters.
In one case, Mexican reporter Cecilio Pineda Brito murder in 2017, just weeks after his phone number leaks.
The company is “deeply trouble” to learn that two AP journalists are among the 1,000 potential Pegasus targets. She tells the AP looks into whether the spyware infects the devices of its two reporters.
Numerous Al-Jazeera journalists and executives, New York Times Beirut bureau chief Ben Hubbard, Moroccan journalist, activist Omar Radi, and Mexican anti-corruption reporter Carmen Aristegui identifies as NSO targets 2016.
Her phone number was listed. Hence the list were Hubbard and Azam Ahmed, the Times’ former Mexico City bureau chief.
Phones Infected With Pegasus
The Guardian reported that two Hungarian investigative journalists, Andras Szabo and Szabolcs Panyi, had their phones infected with Pegasus.
Proponents of a soda tax, opposition politicians, human rights activists investigating mass disappearances, and the widow of a slain journalist are among the known Mexican targets.
In the Middle East, journalists and dissidents are target by the Saudi and UAE governments.
Reporting by the consortium’s “Pegasus Project” bolsters claims that democratic governments, including India and Mexico, have used NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware for political purposes. Among its members are Le Monde and Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Germany.
What Pegasus Do?
Pegasus infiltrates smartphones to steal personal and location data and control their microphones and cameras. Hence Journalists can use this to spy on sources.
The program designs to avoid detection. Using so-called “zero-click” technology. Therefore researchers claim NSO Group can now infect victims without user interaction.
In 2019, WhatsApp and Facebook sued NSO Group in San Francisco federal court. Accusing for exploiting a flaw in the popular encrypted messaging service to target 1,400 users with missed calls.
The Israeli firm sue last year in both Israel and Cyprus, where it exports goods. Therefore among the plaintiffs are Al-Jazeera journalists and Qatari, Mexican, and Saudi journalists and activists.
They include leaked material from Abdullah Al-Athbah, editor of Qatar’s Al-Arab and one of the alleged victims. Therefore video shows UAE officials discussing hacking into the phones of senior Saudi and Qatari figures, including members of the Qatari royal family.
Hence NSO Group says it sells its technology to Israeli-approved governments to help them track terrorists and bust pedophilia, sex, and drug rings.
It claims its software has saved thousands of lives and also denies any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.
To discredit NSO critics, including a Citizen Lab researcher, the NSO Group denies involvement in elaborate undercover operations discovered by The AP in 2019.
An Israeli court dismissed an Amnesty International lawsuit last year, citing insufficient evidence.
Hence NSO Group is not the only commercial spyware vendor. So critics say its behavior get the most attention.
Last month, it release first transparency report, claiming to have rejected “over $300 million in sales opportunities” due to human rights concerns. If this report prints, it is worth for the paper it print on.
New Interactive Online Data
A new interactive online data platform developed activities by country and target audience. Hence it provide by Laura Poitras, best known for her 2014 documentary “Citzenfour” about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Novalpina Capital, a British private equity firm, owns a majority stake in NSO Group. Therefore Israeli media reported that the company was considering an IPO, likely on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.