Activists, journalists and politicians around the world were targeted through the use of mobile malware developed by a private Israeli firm, according to press reports on Sunday, raising fears of widespread violations of privacy and rights.
The use of the software, called Pegasus and developed by Israel’s NSO group, was reported in reports by various world outlets, including The Washington Post, The Guardian and Le Monde, which collaborated in an investigation into an information leak.
It involves the leak of a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been identified as belonging to persons of concern by NSO customers since 2016, according to reports.
Not all of those numbers were later hacked and the media that had access to the leak said that in the next few days they will release more details about who was compromised.
The list includes numbers of journalists from media from around the world, such as Agence France-Presse, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, Associated Press , Le Monde, Bloomberg, The Economist, Reuters and Voice of America, The Guardian said.
The use of the software to hack the phones of Al-Jazeera reporters and a Moroccan journalist had previously been reported by Citizen Lab, a research center at the University of Toronto, and Amnesty International.
Also listed are two numbers belonging to women close to Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by a Saudi squad in 2018.
It also includes the number of an independent Mexican journalist who was later murdered in a car wash. His phone was never found and it is unclear if it was hacked.
The Washington Post said there are also numbers for heads of state and prime ministers, members of Arab royal families, diplomats and politicians, as well as activists and business executives.