Software from the Israeli company NSO Group is used to hack journalists, human rights activists and lawyers worldwide. Sixteen international media outlets, including the British newspaper The Guardian, The Washington Post, Le Monde and international news agencies, report this on the basis of leaked documents. The documents with phone numbers of 50,000 victims of hacks with the software were provided by Amnesty International and the French medium Forbidden Stories.
NSO Group makes a so-called malware program called Pegasus. If a phone is infected with it, files such as photos and emails can be downloaded remotely. The microphone can also be turned on remotely. According to NSO, the software is only intended to track down and shadow criminals and terrorists.
The leaked list includes 180 journalists from the Financial Times, CNN, and The New York Times, among others. The fact that a name is on the list does not necessarily mean that the phone has also been hacked, The Guardian writes, but it does provide insight into the potential targets of governments. A sample of the media shows that half of the phones actually contain traces of Pegasus.
NSO’s customers are intelligence and investigative services and armies in 40 countries, including Rwanda, India, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan. According to the media publishing about the leak, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also took advantage of it. The list of potential Hungarian targets includes journalists, an opposition politician and ten lawyers. According to the EU, the free media and the rule of law are under considerable pressure in Hungary. Hungary denies hacking the people on the list.
More details and names from the leaked documents will be released in the coming days.