An investigation by ‘The Washington Post’ has revealed a list of 50,000 phones from around the world that could be targeted by ‘Pegasus’ spyware from the Israeli company NSO. Among the users of these phones are journalists, activists and businessmen, among other personalities.
In the list of phones spied on with ‘Pegasus’ allegedly by governments are, for example, the wife and the journalist’s fiancée Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. There are also journalists from CNN, The Associated Press, Voice of America, ‘The New York Times’, ‘The Wall Street Journal’, Bloomberg, ‘Le Monde’, ‘Financial Times’ or Al Jazeera.
The investigation is in charge of Forbidden Stories media consortium, based in Paris, which ensures that the evidence has been obtained from the phones themselves through a forensic analysis carried out by the Amnesty International security laboratory.
NSO’s ‘Pegasus’ software is used to gain access to the mobile phones of terrorists, traffickers or pedophiles, but Amnesty and other human rights organizations claim that it has also been used for other purposes by governments. The spyware is installed when the user clicks on a link from their phone and used to collect emails, calls and text messages. Sometimes it can be installed without the link, according to ‘The Washington Post’, which has indicated that more information will be revealed in the next three days.
NSO, consulted before the publication of the news, has since denied that their technology was used to spy on Khashoggi and has pointed out errors and rash conclusions of the investigation. Last month NSO published its first Annual Transparency and Accountability Report, in which it ensures that its products are used by States to thwart major terrorist attacks and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.
NSO already starred in a scandal in 2019 for the use of its equipment to spy on journalists, dissidents and activists in several countries, after which it promised to respect Human Rights and prevent the use of its products for these purposes. In addition, NSO has been sued by the American instant messaging company WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, which ensures that used ‘Pegasus’ against 1,400 users in 2019 for a period of two weeks. The Israeli company denies the accusation and claims that it is its state clients who are ultimately responsible for the use of this technology.