Israeli firm tied to spyware clicking away at smartphones

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 20 Jul 2021

An Israeli firm that sells spyware to governments has been linked to a list of tens of thousands of smartphone numbers, including those of activists, journalists, business executives and politicians.

The NSO Group and its Pegasus malware - capable of switching on a phone camera or microphone and harvesting data - have been in focus since 2016, when researchers said it was used to spy on a dissident in the United Arab Emirates.

New revelations from an investigation by The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde and other media point to global spying.

More than 50,000 smartphone numbers linked to people of interest to NSO clients since 2016 have been found, the organizations said. But NSO labeled the claims false.

On the list were 15,000 numbers in Mexico - some linked to a murdered reporter - and 300 in India, including politicians and journalists.

India's government, which in 2019 denied using the malware to spy on citizens, last week claimed the report "has no concrete basis or truth."

The Post said an analysis of 37 phones on the list also showed "attempted and successful" hacks of devices, including those of two women close to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, murdered in 2018 by a Saudi hit squad.

Among numbers on the list are those of journalists for various media operations, The Guardian said.

The use of the Pegasus software to hack the phones of journalists was reported earlier by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab and Amnesty International.

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