Pegasus spyware, a product of Israeli company NSO Group, has been successfully used in hacking 37 mobile phones belonging to journalists and activists around the world. This is based on research by the Washington Post and its media partners.
Among the findings is that the spyware was used to target the smartphones of both the wife and fiancée of murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Their phone numbers were among more than 50,000 that researchers identified as possible targets for surveillance by Pegasus-equipped governments.
The list also contains phone numbers for journalists working at news organizations such CNN, AP or Voice of America. Forbidden stories, a Paris-based media group, claimed the evidence was derived from phones that were subject to digital forensic analysis at Amnesty International’s security laboratory.
Pegasus has been sold to selected governments and law enforcement agencies. The Pegasus can hack into cell phones via link and secretly record email, calls, and text messages. The Post reports that it can sometimes activate itself automatically without the victim having to click the link. According to The Post, it is unknown how many phones were targeted or spied upon.
NSO responded to the consortium’s findings by saying that it did not believe its technology was being used on Khashoggi. It also said that the investigation contained incorrect assumptions and facts.
NSO Group’s first annual Transparency and Responsibility Report was published last month. It stated that NSO Group products were used by countries to stop major terrorist attacks and drug trafficking rings.
According to The Post, more findings from the investigation will be made public in the coming days.