Two days after the murder of award-winning Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, two of his colleagues began receiving text messages laden with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. To date, 24 targets of Pegasus have been identified in Mexico. This case additionally illustrates an alarming trend of spyware attacks around the world specifically aimed at journalists.
I am a Senior Research Fellow at Citizen Lab, a co-founder of Bahrain Watch, and a Postdoctoral Researcher at UC Berkeley, where I received my PhD in Computer Science under the advisorship of Vern Paxson. My work focuses on novel technological threats to Internet freedom, including new censorship and surveillance tools. My expertise is in Internet scanning and conducting digital investigations. Coverage of my work has been featured in Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Washington Post, on CNN, and on Larry King.
In this report, we describe how Canadian permanent resident and Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz was targeted with a fake package delivery notification. We assess with high confidence that Abdulaziz’s phone was infected with NSO’s Pegasus spyware. We attribute this infection to a Pegasus operator linked to Saudi Arabia.
This section details the research questions that informed our study. We also outline in detail the methods that we adopted to identify Netsweeper installations worldwide, and those that we employed to reduce the findings to countries of interest. We also present high-level technical findings and observations.
In this section, we spotlight several countries where we have evidence of public ISPs blocking websites using Netsweeper’s products. Each country has significant human rights, public policy, insecurity, or corruption challenges, and/or a history of using Internet censorship to prevent access to content that is protected under international human rights frameworks.