According to media reports, human rights activists, journalists, and attorneys all around the globe have been targeted by phone spyware supplied to authoritarian regimes by an Israeli surveillance company.
They were leaked to major news sources from a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers of individuals thought to be of interest to NSO customers.
It’s unclear where the list originated, or who’s phones were really hacked.
NSO denies any wrongdoing on its part
It claims the software is only accessible to military, law enforcement, and intelligence organizations from nations with strong human rights records, and that it is designed for use against criminals and terrorists.
It claimed in a statement that the initial study by the Paris-based NGO Forbidden Stories and the human rights organization Amnesty International, which led to the reports, was “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.”
Use of tracking software on increase
The Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde, and 14 other media outlets across the globe published accusations regarding the use of Pegasus software on Sunday.
Pegasus infects iPhones and Android devices, giving operators access to messages, pictures, and emails, as well as the ability to record calls and covertly activate microphones.
More than half of the phones with numbers on the list contained signs of malware, according to forensic testing.
Around 180 journalists from Agence France-Presse, CNN, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and other news organizations are reported to be on the list.
They also include two women who were close to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as Cecilio Pineda Birto, a Mexican journalist who was killed at a carwash.
Heads of state and administration, members of Arab royal families, and corporate leaders are among those on the wider list.