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.
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How do information controls impact different communities? Debates on Internet-enabled mass surveillance practices have increasingly dominated mainstream conversations, especially after the Snowden revelations. However, what is not as well documented is targeted surveillance operations against civil society that threaten their ability to hold governments accountable.
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.
This year, Citizen Lab researchers will present on issues ranging from WeChat image filtering to the methodologies used for identifying commercial spyware abuses.
The submission reviews Citizen Lab research on the use of private surveillance technology against human rights actors, describes some of the common practices of concern among private companies in the surveillance industry, and proposes a set of recommendations for the path forward.
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.
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.
عَمِلنا في هذا البحث على تطوير تقنيات جديدة لمسح الإنترنت لتحديد 45 بلداً قد يقوم فيها مشغلو برامج التجسس بيغاسوس من شركة NSO بإجراء عمليات تجسس.
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.
Citizen Lab validates Amnesty International investigation showing targeting of staff member and Saudi activist with NSO Group’s technology.