Spyware from Israeli company used to target journalists’ cell phones: Reports
Spyware from an Israeli company has been used in successful attempts to hack 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists around the world, according to a survey by 17 media organizations released on Sunday.
One of the organizations, The Washington Post, said Pegasus spyware licensed by Israeli group NSO was also used to target phones belonging to two women close to Jamal Khashoggi, a Post columnist murdered at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018, before and after his death .
The Guardian, another outlet, said the investigation suggested “widespread and continued abuse” of NSO’s hacking software, described as malware that infects smartphones to allow the extraction of messages, photos and e-mail. mails; record calls; and secretly activate the microphones.
The investigation, which Reuters has not independently confirmed, did not reveal who attempted the hacks or why.
NSO said its product is only intended for use by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.
The company issued a statement on its website denying the report of the 17 media partners headed by the Parisian journalism association Forbidden Stories.
“The Forbidden Stories report is full of flawed assumptions and unsubstantiated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It appears that the ‘unidentified sources’ provided information that has no basis factual and are far from reality, ”the company said in the statement.
“Having verified their claims, we strongly deny the false allegations made in their report,” the statement said.
NSO said its technology was in no way associated with Khashoggi’s murder. ONS representatives were not immediately available to provide additional information to Reuters on Sunday.
In one declaration, the rights group Amnesty International denounced what it called the “complete lack of regulation” of surveillance software.
“Until this company (NSO) and the industry as a whole can demonstrate that it is capable of respecting human rights, there must be an immediate moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology, “the rights group said in a statement. .
The targeted phone numbers were on a list provided by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International to 17 media outlets. It was not clear how the groups got the list.
The numbers on the list have not been assigned, but reporters have identified more than 1,000 people in more than 50 countries, the Post said. They included several members of the Arab royal family, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists and more than 600 politicians and government officials, including several heads of state and prime ministers.
The Guardian said figures for more than 180 journalists were listed in the data, including reporters, editors and executives from the Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times, The Economist, The Associated Press. and Reuters.
“We are deeply disturbed to learn that two reporters from AP, as well as reporters from numerous news agencies, are among those who may have been targeted by the Pegasus spyware,” said Lauren Easton, director of relations with AP media.
“We have taken steps to ensure the safety of our journalists’ devices and are investigating,” she added.
Reuters spokesman Dave Moran said: “Journalists should be allowed to report news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are. We are aware of the report and let’s examine the matter. “
Other media could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.