Israeli Cybersecurity Firm NSO Group, developed the nearly undetectable spyware deemed “Pegasus”—infecting iPhones and Androids—which can gain access to real-time information direct from the target. Journalists have gained access to a leak that was discovered. This leak exposes that Governments around the world have paid NSO Group substantial amounts of money, to use Pegasus to attack their own personal targets.
An investigation by The Guardian and 16 other media organizations gained shared access to a leaked list from Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit media organization, and Amnesty International. The list showed an excess of 50,000 phone numbers used as past surveillance targets.
The phone numbers however, belonged not to terrorists nor criminals—but journalists, presidents, government officials, religious figures, activists, lawyers, business executives, and academics.
This comes after the incident in 2018, when a “former” employee of Israel’s NSO was caught selling the product on the ‘Dark Web’ and arrested—after a meeting with management. Now, we are seeing deeper into the trail of NSO’s corruption. The leak also includes probable connection to specific murders using information gained from Pegasus. Murders like that of freelance Mexican reporter Cecilio Pineda Birto, whose phone was never found.
When Pegasus is installed on the target’s device, it is completely undetectable. After installation, the hacker gains full control to all information contained on the device. End-to-end encryption—such as the popular app Signal—is completely unprotected. It can gains access to your GPS and can track your location in real-time.
According to OCCRP, in 2018 Pegasus was already suspected of infecting countries all over the world, with the UAE, and the USA at the highest levels of cyber-infection.
The leaked data identified 10 governments suspected to be NSO’s customers that bought Pegasus for surveillance. These governments include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Guardian reports more than 180 journalists are considered “persons of interest” by other governments. These names include journalists for Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, the Economist, Financial Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, Le Monde, Agence France-Presse, and Voice of America. This reveals the reporters locations, confidential sources, private messages and other data, to customers of NSO’s Pegasus.