Spyware from Israeli company sows fear around world

TEL AVIV — In the past two days, media outlets around the world have reported that hundreds of politicians, officials, journalists, and activists in several countries have been targeted with Pegasus spyware developed by Israeli company NSO Intelligence Group.

Some countries, including France, wanted to open an official investigation after two journalists and the France-based Mediapart news website submitted a complaint in this regard.

Seventeen news organizations have identified more than 1,000 people in 50 countries who were chosen by NSO agents for potential surveillance, including nearly 200 journalists, prompting the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to demand better regulation of surveillance technologies.

Director of Forbidden Stories, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to continue and publish the work of other journalists facing threats, prison, or murder”, Laurent Richard stated that the phone number of French President Emmanuel Macron and 14 members of the French government are included in the list of potential targets of the spyware.

The Washington Post revealed that the phone number of Iraqi President Barham Salih was on a list of 50,000 numbers chosen to be spied on. It was not possible to determine whether the spyware had reached Salih’s phone, said The Washington Post.

The Guardian reported that the spyware’s leaked database includes the phone numbers of 13 presidents, as well as dozens of diplomatic and military officials.

The database associated with Pegasus was leaked to Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories in 2020.