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New Pegasus scandal erupts; Phones of 50,000 people targeted using Israeli firm's spyware

According to an investigation carried out by multiple media outlets, phone numbers of several journalists and activists were on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance.

New Pegasus scandal erupts Phones of 50000 people hacked using Israeli firm spyware-VPN
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New Delhi, First Published Jul 18, 2021, 10:21 PM IST
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In an explosive revelation, it has emerged that phone numbers of many high-profile people were snooped upon using the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group's spyware called Pegasus.

According to an investigation carried out by multiple media outlets, the phone numbers of several journalists and activists were on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance.

The investigation, coordinated by Paris-based journalism non-profit Forbidden Stories along with technical support from Amnesty International's Security Lab, points towards continued abuse of NSO Group's spyware. 

In the past, the Israeli firm has insisted that Pegasus is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists. NSO Group also claimed that it only offered its spyware to vetted governments. 

However, leaked information thus far has revealed that the purview of Pegasus goes beyond what NSO has stated. 

The latest leak contains over 50,000 phone numbers allegedly identified as 'persons of interest' by NSO clients since 2016.

The list of global targets that the media outlets reportedly identified during their investigation included 600 politicians and government officials, several Arab royal family members, 189 journalists, and 85 human rights activists.

Out of the 50,000 potential targets, over 15,000 are believed to be from Mexico alone, with several politicians and government critics on the radar. 

In India, the phone numbers of hundreds of journalists, activists, opposition politicians, government officials and business executives are believed to be on the list.

NSO has, expectedly, disputed the findings of the reporting and said it would probe the claims.

Back in 2019, the NSO-developed spyware was found to have targeted at least 1500 users in four continents. In India, those targeted included senior government officials, diplomats, journalists and rights activists.

Hackers would plant the spyware in the target's device using email attachments. Downloading or accessing this email attachment would provide the hackers remote access to the device. Pegasus enabled the hackers to extract data stored on the device.

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