Tel Aviv (dpa) – An international journalist consortium has released new allegations against Israeli surveillance software provider NSO.
IT experts found traces of attacks using the company’s Pegasus software on 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, their families and business people. The figures are part of a dataset of more than 50,000 telephone numbers that the journalists evaluated together with the organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. The numbers are reported to have been selected by NSO customers as potential spy targets. The NSO strongly denied the allegations on Sunday.
The “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, NDR, WDR and “Zeit” are also involved in the journalists’ consortium. According to their presentation, the “Pegasus Project” investigation suggests that hundreds of journalists, human rights activists, opposition activists and politicians were selected to track them with the spy software. The list includes the numbers of more than 180 journalists from different countries. Numbers of German journalists are not included. How the list got to Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, which she then shared with the media, remained open in the reports – the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” referred to the source security.
NSO had previously been accused of using Pegasus software to help totalitarian governments spy on journalists and dissidents. Facebook sued NSO in the US in 2019. The allegation in the lawsuit is that NSO tried to access hundreds of smartphones through a security vulnerability in WhatsApp that was later patched. Among the targets were journalists, lawyers, dissidents, human rights activists, diplomats and government officials.
NSO is also said to have played a role in the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. According to the Washington Post, two of the smartphones on which Amnesty International’s IT experts found traces of Pegasus attacks belonged to women near Khashoggi.
The Israeli company spoke of “false allegations and misleading allegations” on Sunday in view of the Forbidden Stories report. Their sources provided them with information that had no factual basis. “The allegations are so outrageous and far from reality that the NSO is considering a libel suit.” NSO confirmed that its technology is “in no way related to the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi”. Its technology is “sold only to law enforcement and secret services of controlled governments for the sole purpose of saving lives by preventing crime and terrorism.”