Activists, politicians, and journalists from around the world have been targeted in a surveillance operation using software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group.
According to the Guardian, the leak contains a list of more than 50,000 numbers believed to have been of interest to clients of NSO since 2016.
In a report published on Sunday, the Washington Post revealed that “authoritarian governments” abused the Pegasus software, “hacking 37 smartphones.”
“The numbers on the list are unattributed, but reporters were able to identify more than 1,000 people spanning more than 50 countries through research and interviews on four continents: several Arab royal family members, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, and more than 600 politicians and government officials — including cabinet ministers, diplomats, and military and security officers. The numbers of several heads of state and prime ministers also appeared on the list,” said The Washington Post.
Governments on the leaked list:
At least 10 governments are believed to be NSO customers using Israeli spyware on press, politicians, and activists: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to an investigation into a massive data leak by The Guardian, the Washington Post, and 15 other media outlets.
Journalists for media organizations on the leaked list:
The list also included 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, as per the Guardian report.
Pegasus, a sophisticated surveillance tool:
Pegasus, a sophisticated surveillance tool was developed by the Israeli company. It infects the user’s smartphone and steals all the phone’s information, including every contact name and phone number, text message, email, Facebook message, everything from Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, and Telegram.
The media consortium, titled the Pegasus Project, analyzed the list through interviews and forensic analysis of the phones, and by comparing details with previously reported information about NSO, The Washington Post reports.
According to the report, Amnesty’s Security Lab examined 67 smartphones where attacks were suspected. Of those, 23 were successfully infected and 14 showed signs of attempted penetration.
Social media reacts to the shocking revelations:
Pretty ironic that the US govt (rightly so) talks about cyber attacks from Russia & China but would not even dare speak of sanctions on Israeli firm NSO which sells #Pegasus to the choicest authoritarians.— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) July 18, 2021
The unfolding revelations are of extreme important as the mobile phones of at least two dozen Pakistani govt officials were allegedly targeted in 2019 with #pegasus. Scores of Pakistani senior defence & intelligence officials were among those who could have been compromised. https://t.co/l7F0jLKsP8— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) July 18, 2021