50,000 people have been targeted by an Israeli spyware program. Hungary’s opposition politicians are demanding an urgent hearing after allegations that Hungarian authorities used spyware against critics.
Human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers around the world have been targets of the Pegasus spyware. Writes Watchman And many international media.
Pegasus is owned by the Israeli company NSO Group. The company’s clients include the intelligence services, police and military of a number of totalitarian countries.
The software was sold and used by authorities in Morocco, Hungary and Azerbaijan.
Amnesty International and more than 80 international journalists collaborated to uncover this revelation. They obtained a list of 50,000 phone numbers that NSO customers were interested in. Not all of these numbers have been proven to have been hacked.
The revelations indicate that Pegasus used systematic repression and contributed to widespread violations of human rights. This affects all of us and bears witness to a global surveillance community that threatens our human rights and democracy, says Han Sophie Lindahl.
She is a political advisor to Amnesty International Norway.
Scaring people to silence them and making sure that people don’t trust each other is an important goal of monitoring. She believes that it is not only about “taking” certain activists, but also making the discussion of politics risky in general.
What can the program do?
Pegasus can be used to monitor all communications from a smartphone. That includes text messages, emails, and phone calls. The software can also control the phone’s microphone and camera.
This allows spyware to use the phone to monitor the user and the person they are communicating with. This makes journalists especially vulnerable.
For example, a successful Pegasus attack could provide access to the reporter’s source network. It is also possible to listen to conversations and movements of the maps.
Pegasus can do this by hacking unsecured apps on a person’s phone. Alternatively, the program can trick people into clicking on unsafe links sent via, for example, SMS or email.
Whatsapp app is available for messaging and phone Former accused Pegasus To monitor Whatsapp users. By contacting different users, Pegasus must have been able to hack the phones, even without the users answering.
Who is affected?
The new leak shows that journalists in particular have been frequently targeted.
180 editors and journalists associated with central media around the world appeared on the list of people who might have been spotted.
Some of the media are: Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, El País, Associated Press, Le Monde, The Economist and Reuters.
Some of the distinguished journalists are:
- Rollin KhalafEditor at the Financial Times.
- Greg Carlstrom, Middle East correspondent for The Economist.
- Bradley HopeDangerous Journalist, I’m The Wall Street Journal.
Another famous journalist featured on the list is Mexican journalist Cecilio Pineda Berto. It was Killed in 2017 After revealing the cooperation between the police, politicians and the mafia in Mexico.
Amnesty International Norway says it has not yet disclosed any Norwegian numbers that may have been spotted.
– But we cannot rule out that people in Norway are infected. Han Sophie Lindahl says the initial investigation did not reveal this.
Award-Winning Journalist: – It’s disgusting
There were as many as 48 Azerbaijani journalists on the list. Many of them covered corruption and other criticism in Azerbaijan.
Amnesty International earlier revealed that award-winning exploration journalist Khadija Ismailova had been hacked by Pegasus.
Ismayilova exposed high-level corruption in Azerbaijan. This made her rate They were imprisoned by the Azerbaijani authorities. After much international pressure, she was released in 2016. At that time, she was in prison for 537 days.
Ismayilova had previously visited Norway to speak at the Skup conference. To NSO, she had a clear message: “It’s despicable, it’s hateful.”
Provokes strong reactions in Hungary
The unveiling of Project Pegasus has already begun to yield results.
Hungary’s opposition politicians are demanding an urgent hearing after allegations that Hungarian authorities used spyware against critics.
Described surveillance, “is not permitted in a country governed by the rule of law,” says Jobbik political party committee chair Janos Stammer:
– As we see it, silence in practice would be an acknowledgment that the government is really involved, he tells the AP news agency.
A government spokesperson in Hungary denied knowledge of the data collection. The Justice Department has not yet responded to inquiries from the Aps news agency.
The accusations against the Hungarian government come at a time when media freedom and diversity have weakened in the country.
Not the first time
This is not the first time that NSO Group has been suspected of spying. Aftenposten previously wrote that Pegasus has been accused of involvement in:
- The United Arab Emirates monitors journalists and activists from the Emirates.
- Attempt to hack AI.
- The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
NSO continues to deny that it has done anything wrong. In an official statement Lawyers representing NSO say Pegasus aims to fight crime and terrorism. They believe the software has been sold to countries that follow human rights.
They also write that they will continue to investigate allegations of Pegasus abuse. According to them, they had previously terminated cooperation with clients where such violations were documented.