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NSO Group’s spyware allegedly targeted journalists, activists in dozens of countries

The logo of the Israeli NSO Group company on a building in Herzliya, Israel, August 25, 2016. (AP Photo/ Daniella Cheslow)
The logo of the Israeli NSO Group company on a building in Herzliya, Israel, August 25, 2016. (AP Photo/ Daniella Cheslow)

A major investigation by 17 major international news organizations revealed that the embattled Israeli cyber firm NSO Group has sold hacking software used to target journalists and activists in dozens of countries.

The investigation was led by the Pegasus Project, which was formed by Forbidden Stories, a French journalism nonprofit and Amnesty International, who had access to more than 50,000 cellphone numbers believed to be among those targeted by clients using NSO Group software. Reporting was carried out by The Washington Post, Le Monde, Die Zeit, the Guardian, Haaretz, PBS Frontline, and many other news outlets.

The reporting focused on Pegasus, a spyware tool sold by NSO that it says is being used by dozens of governmental clients, many of them in authoritarian states. The analysis carried out on the leaked data found 10 countries believed to be NSO customers — Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates.

In a statement from its lawyers quoted by the Guardian, NSO dismisses “false claims” about its clients’ activities but says it will “continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action.”

The firm also calls the 50,000 figure “exaggerated,” and says that just because a phone number was on the list does not mean it was targeted with Pegasus.

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