Pegasus spyware from Israeli company NSO Group has been used to hack 37 phones belonging to journalists, activists, and business leaders all over the globe. The Washington Post and media partners such as Le Monde, The Guardian and Süddeutsche Zeitung report this on the basis of their own research. The tech company denies.
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 phone numbers of more than 180 journalists representing news organizations like CNN, AP and Voice of America are also included in the list. Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit, conducted the investigation. They claimed that the evidence came from the phones using digital forensic analysis by Amnesty International.
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 SMS messages. According to The Post, in some cases it can activate itself by clicking on the link. The American newspaper stated that it was not known how many phones included on the list were targeted or spied.
NSO responded to the findings of the consortium by denying that Khashoggi’s technology was being used against him. It stated that the investigation had flawed assumptions and made factual errors. “These allegations are so outrageous and far from reality that the NSO is considering a defamation lawsuit,” the Israeli company said.
The NSO Group’s first annual Transparency and Responsibility Report was released last month. It stated that the products were used by states 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.