New York Times journalist Ben Hubbard was targeted with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware via a June 2018 SMS message promising details about “Ben Hubbard and the story of the Saudi Royal Family.” The SMS contained a hyperlink to a website used by a Pegasus operator that we call KINGDOM. We have linked KINGDOM to Saudi Arabia. In 2018, KINGDOM also targeted Saudi dissidents including Omar Abdulaziz, Ghanem al-Masarir, and Yahya Assiri, as well as a staff member at Amnesty International.
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The Citizen Lab has sent an open letter to Francisco Partners in light of the apparent misuse of NSO Group’s technology– a company in which we believe Francisco Partners has a majority stake– and to request timely action in regards to issues raised in previous correspondence.
In this post, we develop new Internet scanning techniques to identify 45 countries in which operators of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware may be conducting operations.
The Citizen Lab’s response to the questionnaire of the U.N. Working Group on the use of mercenaries on the provision of military and security products and services in cyber space by cyber mercenaries and related actors and its human rights impact.
Since 2016, the Citizen Lab has published numerous reports regarding the use of Pegasus spyware against human rights defenders, journalists, politicians, and other members of civil society. Despite these findings, NSO Group has failed to substantively engage or respond to the research presented by the Citizen Lab and other organizations.
في شهري يوليو وأغسطس 2020 استخدم عملاءٌ حكوميون برنامج التجسس بيغاسوس “Pegasus” من مجموعة “NSO” لاختراق 36 هاتفاً شخصياً لصحفيين ومنتجين ومراسلين و مدراء تنفيذيين في قناة الجزيرة. كما تم اختراق هاتف صحفية في قناة العربي، التي مقرها لندن.
Government operatives used NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to hack 36 personal phones belonging to journalists, producers, anchors, and executives at Al Jazeera. The journalists were hacked by four Pegasus operators, including one operator MONARCHY that we attribute to Saudi Arabia, and one operator SNEAKY KESTREL that we attribute to the United Arab Emirates.
Circles is a surveillance firm that reportedly exploits weaknesses in the global mobile phone system to snoop on calls, texts, and the location of phones around the globe, and is affiliated with NSO Group, which develops the oft-abused Pegasus spyware. Using Internet scanning, we found a unique signature associated with the hostnames of Check Point firewalls used in Circles deployments, enabling us to identify Circles deployments in at least 25 countries.
Amidst calls for reform in Togo, NSO Group’s spyware was used to target voices for change including a bishop, priest, and opposition politicians.
Targets were sent emails disguised as important communications, such as official summonses, bearing links to malicious software disguised as important documents. If opened, targets’ computers would have been infected with NetWire, a piece of commodity malware.