An Israeli company accused of supplying spyware to governments has been linked to publishing a list of 50,000 smartphone numbers, activists, journalists, business executives and politicians around the world, according to reports released Sunday.
Israel’s NSO Group and its Pegasus malware have been in the headlines since at least 2016, When investigators accused him of helping spy on a dissident in the United Arab Emirates.
The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Mont and other media outlets that collaborated in the data breach investigation also reported the extent of Pegasus usage.
The leak reveals more than 50,000 smartphone numbers identified as belonging to individuals concerned by NSO customers since 2016.
The Post noted that Paris-based Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International shared the list with the media. The total number of phones that were attacked or monitored is unknown, the newspaper said.
The list includes journalists from around the world, including Agencies France-Press, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediabard, El Boss, and the Associated Press. According to Le Monde, Bloomberg, The Economist, Reuters and Voice of America, The Guardian.
The use of the software to hack the phones of Al-Jazeera reporters and a Moroccan journalist was previously reported by the Citizen Lab and Amnesty International, a research center at the University of Toronto.
Listed are two numbers belonging to women close to Saudi-born journalist Jamal Kashoki, who was killed by a Saudi team in 2018.
This includes the number of an independent Mexican journalist who was later killed in a car wash. His phone was never found and it is not clear if it was hacked.
– Pocket Spy –
The Post said there was no reason for the numbers on the list, but the media involved in the project was able to identify more than 1,000 people from more than 50 countries.
Among them were many members of Arab royal families, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists and more than 600 politicians and government officials, heads of state and ministers.
According to reports, the list is concentrated in 10 countries, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Pegasus, the report states, can activate a target person’s phone’s camera and microphone, as well as access data on the device, which can turn a phone into a pocket spy.
In some cases, you can install it without tricking the user into downloading.
In a statement released on Sunday, the banned stories said the report was “full of false assumptions and unsubstantiated theories” and threatened to file a defamation suit against the organization.
“As the NSO has said before, our technology is in no way related to the assassination of Jamal Kashoki,” the company said.
“We would like to emphasize that the NSO sells its technologies to law enforcement and some government spies for the sole purpose of saving lives by preventing crime and terrorism,” he said.
Citizen Lab reported in December that the mobile devices of three dozen journalists from Qatar’s Al – Jazeera network had been attacked by Pegasus.
In June last year, Amnesty International reported that Moroccan authorities had used NSO malware to insert spyware into the cell phone of Omar Roddy, a journalist convicted of posting on social media.
At the time, the NSO told the AFP it was “deeply concerned about the allegations” and was reviewing the information.
The NSO, founded in 2010 by Israeli Shalev Julio and Omri Lavi, is located in Herslia, an Israeli high-tech center near Tel Aviv, and claims to be used by hundreds of people in Israel and around the world.