Leak Uncovers Global Abuse of Cyber-Surveillance Weapon

An investigation by The Guardian has revealed widespread and continuing abuse of hacking spyware created by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group.

NSO insists that its hacking spyware, Pegasus, is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists, but authoritarian governments have been using it to target human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers across the world, the Guardian reports. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016.

Pegasus is malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos, and emails, record calls, and secretly activate microphones. The presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. However, the consortium believes the data is indicative of the potential targets NSO’s government clients identified in advance of possible surveillance attempts.

The Guardian and its media partners will be revealing the identities of roughly 180 people whose number appeared on the list in the coming days. They include hundreds of business executives, religious figures, academics, NGO employees, union officials, and government officials, including cabinet ministers, presidents, and prime ministers.

The list also contains the numbers of close family members of one country’s ruler, suggesting the ruler may have instructed their intelligence agencies to explore the possibility of monitoring their own relatives. The disclosures begin on Sunday, with the revelation that the numbers of more than 180 journalists are listed in the data, including reporters, editors, and executives at the Financial Times, CNN, the New York Times, France 24, The Economist, Associated Press, and Reuters.

Read the full report on The Guardian’s website.

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