Earlier this week, a report by Amnesty International, Citizen Lab, and Forensic Architecture revealed that oppressive governments, accused of Human rights violations, used ‘Pegasus’ spyware to hack iOS and Android devices and track individuals and subject them to state violence like arrests, harassment, and even murder.
In addition, a new report by The Washington Post and its 16 media partners found that Pegasus developed by Israeli-NSO was used to hack 37 smartphones of government officials, journalists, and human rights activists around the world.
Media organizations are outraged by abuse facilitated by zero day-exploit Pegasus spyware
The new investigation carried by the media consortium, led by the Paris-based not-for-profit Forbidden Stories used information “extracted for the phones through digital forensic analysis by Amnesty International’s security lab.” Bloomberg reports that the list included phone numbers of more than 50,000 journalists who were potential targets of governments surveillance via Pegasus. The journalists are from CNN, the Associated Press, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Le Monde in France, the Financial Times, and Al Jazeera in Qatar.
As per Reuters, “reporters identified more than 1,000 people spanning more than 50 countries, the Post said. They included several Arab royal family members, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, and more than 600 politicians and government officials – including several heads of state and prime ministers.” And this unwarranted abuse by NSO has outraged journalists worldwide.
The Washington Post said the Pegasus spyware licensed by Israel-based NSO Group also was used to target phones belonging to two women close to Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist murdered at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018, before and after his death.
The Guardian said the investigation suggested “widespread and continuing abuse” of NSO’s hacking software, described as malware that infects smartphones to enable the extraction of messages, photos and emails; record calls; and secretly activate microphones.
In a statement, rights group Amnesty International decried what it termed “the wholesale lack of regulation” of surveillance software. The group said “until this company (NSO) and the industry as a whole can show it is capable of respecting human rights, there must be an immediate moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology,”
Director of AP Media Relations Lauren Easton said “we are deeply troubled to learn that two AP journalists, along with journalists from many news organizations, are among those who may have been targeted by Pegasus spyware. We have taken steps to ensure the security of our journalists’ devices and are investigating.
Reuters’ spokesman Dave Moran said, “Journalists must be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are. We are aware of the report and are looking into the matter.”
Bloomberg News spokesperson “the sort of surveillance being reported is an appalling violation of press freedoms and we strongly condemn it.”
NSO has denied the accusation that Pegasus was used in any abuse and rejected both reports. Since the Amnesty International, Citizen Lab, and Forensic Architecture report highlighted Israeli-NSO’s involvement in state-run victimization via Zero-day Pegasus surveillance spyware on iOS and Android smartphones, Apple and Google have not addressed the situation and released an official statement on the alleged abuse.
As per our previous coverage:
“NSO is an Israeli-based company that uses zero-day exploits to develop spyware for iPhone and Android. The zero-day security vulnerability does not require any action from the victim and a simple text message sent on a device, allows the perpetrator to track the victims’ location, read their emails, messages, stored data, collect passwords, contacts, and much more. NSO’s Pegasus is alleged to be mostly used by oppressive regimes to track journalists, political rivals, activists, or others who dissident. In connection to the horrendous murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, humans rights groups accused the Saudi government used Pegasus to track his activity, trap and kill him in the Saudi embassy in Turkey.”