The global media consortium investigation revealed that the Pegasus Spyware of Israel Company - NSO Group was used in hacking ventures on 37 mobile phones of Govt officials, activists & journalists. In addition, a leaked list of more than 50K phone numbers was identified by human rights group - Amnesty International & Paris journalism - Hidden Stories. This list was distinguished for potential monitoring by countries that are also NSO clients.
NSO Group states the software is made available only to the military, intelligence agencies & law regulators with significant human rights records to track terrorists & criminals. The spyware infects Android & iOS devices to enable operators to obtain call records, pictures, emails, messages & secretly activate cameras & microphones.
Journalists found out that more than 1,000 people in 50 countries were selected by NSO clients, including business executives, several Arab royal members, politicians, state heads & more than 180 journalists (CNN, Al Jazeera & NY Times). Many of them were clustered in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Mexico, Hungary, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Rwanda & India. However, when they are contacted as part of the investigation, these outlet's spokesperson either denied that software was used or denied that they had abused surveillance power.
Washington Post stated that it's not clear how many phones on the list were targeted, but the forensic study showed there had been attempted & successful hacks. For example, in October 2018, a Saudi Journalist - Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The investigation identified that the software was installed on his fiancé's device & that her phone was targeted between 2017, September & 2018 April.
The investigation also found out that the Mexican Journalist - Cecilio Pineda Birto's phone also appeared twice on the list, including the month before his murder. The Group states that its tech was not indulged in any way with these atrocious murders. This isn't the first time the NSO Group's software has been accused of being a more effective surveillance campaign. Between July & August last year, Citizen Lab identified 36 phones belonging to Al Jazeera journalists hacked using spyware, possibly by hackers working for Middle East Govts. In 2019, the biggest conversational platform - WhatsApp, sued NSO, claiming that the spyware was used to hack people of the app's encrypted chat service.
Image source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/