All victims in the Pegasus spyware network

All victims in the Pegasus spyware network

Over the past two years, a series of investigations carried out by a consortium of international newspapers, individual journalists, researchers and activists have made it clear that the Pegasus software, a spyware sold by the Israeli company Nso Group in theory with the aim of infiltrating cell phones of suspected criminals and terrorists, is instead used systematically by various governments to spy on journalists, politicians, activists, dissidents and officials of other states.

Installable on a device with a so-called "zero-click" attack, that is, without need to have access to the computer or cell phone of the person you want to spy on nor to induce them to click anything - as in the classic cases of phishing, for example - Pegasus allows you to collect an impressive amount of data: emails, contact lists, registrations audio, images, video and passwords. It can also activate cameras or microphones to record, listen to calls and locate the device without the owner knowing.

In 2020, the largest investigative journalism initiative on the subject, the Pegasus Project, obtained 50,000 telephone numbers belonging to individuals identified as "persons of interest" by Nso Group customers. Although the Israeli company called the number of potential targets "exaggerated" and denied that the list coincided with people spied by governments using Pegasus, forensic analysis of some phones linked to the numbers that appeared showed that at least half of the devices it had been exposed to Pegasus.

Amnesty International and other non-governmental organizations such as the Canadian research group Citizen Lab have however confirmed, in the last two years, over 450 cases of political targets actually infected with this spyware. According to the latest revelations, among them are 63 leaders of the Catalan independence movement, but also the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Defense Minister, María Margarita Robles Fernández. Private companies such as Apple and WhatsApp, whose security flaws have been exploited over time by Nso engineers to install Pegasus on their users' mobile phones, have in turn confirmed attacks that would affect thousands of users.

I Catalan leaders have been spied on with Pegasus software. Among those monitored with spyware there are more than 60 separatists, in addition to the office of the British Prime Minister and the Foreign office, the research group Citizen Lab has revealed. Sánchez, Robles and the Catalan separatists - among them the president of the Parliament of Catalonia Roger Torrent, the current president of the Generalitat de Catalunya Pere Aragonès, the former Catalan presidents Artur Mas, Carles Puigdemont and Quim Torra, the leaders of the main civic organizations for Catalan independence and several MEPs - these are just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition to cases in which Pegasu s was actually used to track down dangerous criminals - as happened in the Mexican law enforcement mission that managed to capture Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, the famous drug lord - in many cases the targets have been clearly selected. political purposes. And not only by countries universally considered authoritarian.

In Europe, it was Viktor Orbán's Hungary and Poland, where they are authorized to use Pegasus to spy on the opposition and the journalists Attorney Roman Giertych and prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek, both critical of the ruling party, but also of opposition senators, were targeted.

Spyware has also been heavily used by the Hindu nationalist government by Narendra Modi, in India. Meta sued Nso in 2019 after discovering that Pegasus was exploiting WhatsApp flaws to spy on human rights activists, academics and journalists. In January 2022, Israel's police were discovered to be using spyware to monitor both Israeli and foreign citizens without warrant or judicial scrutiny. This news should not come as a surprise, given that so many of the people who work for NSO come directly from the country’s army. Among them are at least six Palestinian activists. In one case, the police targeted an activist with the intention of uncovering scandals in his personal life that they could use as leverage against him.

In Armenia, several politicians and officials were caught in possession of state secrets, including the former intelligence director: it is not known whether it was the Armenian government or that of Azerbaijan, which has been competing for Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia for decades, to spy on them. Traces of a past installation of Pegasus have been found in the cell phones of members of the political opposition also in Togo and Kazakhstan, as well as against several dissidents exiled from the Arab Emirates.

In Morocco, two pro-democracy activists in the 2019 received a notification from WhatsApp informing them that their cellphones had been hacked by Pegasus. The government of Bahrain, which bought the spyware in 2017, used it to hack the cell phones of dozens of human rights activists or government critics, throwing them into what has been called "a daily terror".

Nso's Pegasus spyware used against journalists and NGOs in El Salvador A group of digital rights organizations unveiled an extensive series of targeted attacks in the country, showing that the company has done little to prevent misuse of its technology Journalists There are also many cases of journalists whose privacy has been violated through Pegasus. A couple of cases are particularly dramatic. In the list of possible targets viewed by Forbidden Stories last year, for example, the story of Cecilio Pineda Birto, a Mexican freelance journalist murdered in broad daylight while sleeping in a hammock that was not visible from the street, after receiving threats stands out. of anonymous deaths for weeks for an investigation into corruption in the country. It was not possible to confirm the presence of Pegasus on his cell phone because it was stolen by the people who killed him. Only at least 26 other Mexican journalists potentially spied on with Nso's software: among them, former New York Times editor-in-chief Azam Ahmed.

And Pegasus was certainly used by Saudi Arabia to spy on Jamal Kashoggi, the Washington Post reporter brutally murdered in Turkey in 2018, as well as his family members. The spying of 38 Al Jazeera journalists between London and Qatar and a New York Times correspondent who was writing a book on Mohammed bin Salman can also be traced back to Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

They are Several journalists from Radio Free Europe in Azerbaijan were spied, as well as most of the editorial staff of El Faro, an independent media in El Salvador. In France, the cell phones of some of the country's leading investigative journalists have been infected, including Lénaïg Bredoux and Edwy Plenel, as well as a senior France24 journalist who preferred to remain anonymous.

Apple sued to spyware company Pegasus The Californian company sued Nso, the Israeli spyware company, for hacking its software. Nso, now on the US blacklist, had already been sued by WhatsApp in 2019. Good old espionage Add to this the use of Pegasus for spying between governments. Morocco has targeted over 6,000 phones from Algerian politicians and military personnel. Eleven diplomats and employees of the US embassy in Uganda have been spied on by the local government. Several European officials are also victims of spyware, including the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, and a former French minister, Arnaud Montebourg, probably targeted by Morocco.

Even the cell phone of the independent investigator of the Nations Unite Kamel Jendoubi, sent to Yemen to investigate potential war crimes, was targeted. Again, the main suspect is Saudi Arabia, one of Nso's main customers. The United Arab Emirates are suspected of having ordered the espionage of several members of the Yemeni and British governments, as well as a former wife of the Emirati prime minister, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The English Supreme Court has defined this last interference as a "serial violation of the United Kingdom's domestic criminal law", "violation of the fundamental common law and of the rights of the ECHR", the European Convention on the rights of the United Kingdom man, "interference with the trial of this court and access to justice" and "abuse of power" by a head of state. But the founder of the company, Shalev Hulio, continues to defend his work, saying he rejected dozens of customers for ethical reasons, giving up business worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Powered by Blogger.