According to media reports, human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers worldwide have been targeted by a malicious phone program sold to authoritarian governments by an Israeli monitoring firm.
These were leaked to major news agencies by NSO Group on a list of nearly 50,000 phone numbers that the company’s customers are thought to be of interest to.
It was unclear where the listing came from or how many phones were actually hacked.
NSO denies any wrongdoing.
He said the program is designed to be used against criminals and terrorists and is only open to the military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies of countries with human rights concerns.
He said the initial investigation, which led to reports from the Paris-based NGO Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, was “full of misunderstandings and unconfirmed theories”.
Pegasus: Spyware sold to governments ‘targets activists’:
However, it added that it will “continue to investigate all credible allegations of abuse and take appropriate action”.
Allegations of the use of the program known as Pegasus were made Sunday by the Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, and 14 other media outlets around the world.
Pegasus infects iPhone and Android devices, allowing operators to retrieve messages, photos, and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones and cameras.
What do we know about target people?
Media outlets working on the investigation said they identified more than 1,000 people on the list, spanning more than 50 countries.
These include politicians and heads of state, rulers, activists, and members of several Arab royal families. More than 180 journalists are on the list, including CNN, The New York Times, and Al Jazeera.
According to the reports, a large number of figures were collected in 10 countries, namely Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Representatives of these countries denied either use of Pegasus or abuse of control when contacted by the agencies under investigation.
The Washington Post reported that it was not clear how many of the devices on the list were targeted, but forensic analysis of 37 phones showed there were “tried and successful” attacks.
This included people close to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Then his body was dismembered.
The investigation revealed that spyware was installed on his fiancee’s phone a few days after the murder and that his wife’s phone was targeted by spyware from September 2017 to April 2018.
Mexican journalist Cecilio Pineda Birton’s phone was listed twice, one month before he was killed, and an investigation has been launched.
The phone disappeared from the crime scene, so the forensic examination was not possible. NSO said that although the phone was the target, the information gathered did not indicate any involvement in the murder.
Two Hungarian investigative journalists Andras Szabo and Szabolcs Panyi were found to have successfully infected their phones with spyware.
Mr. Panyi said the attempt to hack banned stories was “destructive”.
“There are people in this country who find an ordinary journalist as dangerous as a suspected terrorist,” he said.
The Hungarian government told the Guardian it was “unaware of the alleged information gathering”.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government includes more than 40 journalists, three opposition leaders, and two ministers.
Also on the list was Rahul Gandhi, a prominent opposition figure with two mobile phone numbers of his own. Mr. Gandhi no longer owned the devices, so it was not possible to analyze them to determine if they had been hacked.
The Indian government has denied the unauthorized surveillance practice.
More information on who was targeted is expected in the coming days.
WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the NSO in 2019, claiming that the company was behind the cyberattacks on 1,400 mobile phones, including Pegasus. At that time, NSO denied any wrongdoing, but the company was banned from using WhatsApp.
The allegations here are not new. The new is the scale at which innocent people are allegedly targeted. In the list, which includes the phone numbers of nearly 200 journalists from 21 countries, prominent names in the public are expected to be announced.
These claims are pretty unknown – including where the list came from and how many phone numbers were actively being targeted by spyware. NSO Group swayed again and denied all accusations. But try to fix your reputation.
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News source@ BBC