Investigation claims that spyware was used to invade journalists, activists and executives
According to an investigation published on Sunday, spyware tools authorized by the Israeli company NSO Group were used to attack smartphones belonging to 37 journalists, human rights activists and other prominent personalities.
The report received a quick response from the National Bureau of Statistics, claiming that it was “full of false assumptions and unproven theories.”
The survey was conducted by the news non-profit organization Forbidden Stories and 17 media partners. The survey is based on a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that have been selected by NSO customers for possible surveillance since 2016. People related, the organization said Say.
Forbidden Stories stated that Pegasus, a software product sold by the National Bureau of Statistics to government agencies, has been “widely abused” by customers to target lawyers, academics and other professionals in countries such as India, Mexico and France.
According to a human rights organization, a forensic analysis conducted by Amnesty International found that these 37 mobile phones had been infected or attempted to be infected by NSO spyware, and the organization issued a separate report. report In its methodology.
The British “Financial Times” was unable to independently verify the claims reported by the media consortium.
According to Forbidden Stories, the alleged victims of the attack included Siddharth Varadarajan, the founder of the Indian news website The Wire, and Szabolcs Panyi, an investigative reporter from the Hungarian news non-profit organization Direkt36.
Bill Marczak, a senior researcher at the Canadian regulatory agency Citizens Lab, said that they have reviewed four of these phones and confirmed “with high confidence” that they have become targets for the Pegasus software. Marczak said that Citizen Lab conducted a peer review of Amnesty’s method and deemed it “reasonable.”
The consortium partners have promised to disclose the names of other people on the broader suspected watch list within the next few days. According to the Guardian, this list includes corporate executives, cabinet ministers, presidents and prime ministers., One of the consortium.
A spokesperson for the National Bureau of Statistics said that the company will “continue to investigate all credible allegations of abuse,” while denying the “false allegations” it claimed in the Taboo Stories report.
“The NSO Group has good reason to believe that the unnamed source’s statement to Forbidden Stories is based on a misleading interpretation of data from basic accessible and public information (such as the HLR lookup service) that is incompatible with Pegasus or any other NSO. The customer target of the product,” the spokesperson said.
National Bureau of Statistics Say The Pegasus software is designed to collect only mobile data of persons suspected of involvement in crime and terrorism. It stated that its customer agreement requires that the product should not be used to violate human rights, and that it has shut down customers’ systems “multiple times in the past” due to abuse.
The survey increased the review of NSO, which was valued at more than $1 billion in the 2019 acquisition of its management team and private equity firm Novalpina.
In December, Citizen Lab Say Dozens of iPhones used by Al Jazeera reporters were hacked by NSO spyware. The National Bureau of Statistics stated that these claims are based on “speculations, inaccurate assumptions and not fully grasping the facts.”
Previously, the Financial Times Report The attacker used a vulnerability in the messaging application WhatsApp to plant an NSO spyware program on the target phone. The National Bureau of Statistics stated at the time that it is not involved in operations or targeting its technology, which is entirely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
According to the “Guardian”, the client of the UK National Bureau of Statistics listed more than 180 journalists as potential targets in the survey. The editor of the UK “Financial Times” Roula Khalaf is one of them. An NSO spokesperson stated that it has been confirmed that Khalaf is “not a Pegasus target for any of NSO’s customers.”
“Press freedom is of paramount importance, and any illegal state intervention or surveillance of journalists is unacceptable,” said a spokesperson for the Financial Times.