Activists, journalists and politicians around the world have been spied on using cellphone malware developed by a private Israeli firm, it emerged Sunday, igniting fears of widespread privacy and rights abuses.
The use of the software, called Pegasus and developed by Israel’s NSO group, was reported on by the Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets who collaborated on an investigation into a data leak.
The leak was of a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016.
One of those targeted was Hanan Elatr, the wife of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by a Saudi hit squad in 2018. Her phone – as well as that of a second female associate – was allegedly targeted before his death.
Not all of those numbers on the list were subsequently hacked, and the news outlets with access to the leak said more details about those who were compromised would be released in coming days.
Among the numbers on the list are those of journalists for media organizations around the world including Agence France-Presse, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, the Associated Press, Le Monde, Bloomberg, the Economist, Reuters and Voice of America, the Guardian said.
The use of the software to hack the phones of Al-Jazeera reporters and a Moroccan journalist has been reported previously by Citizen Lab, a research center at the University of Toronto, and Amnesty International.
Read more: Israeli spyware is found on cellphones of journalists including at New York Times, CNN and AP, as well as members of royal families and politicians around the world