The main political rival of the Indian Prime Minister, the editor-in-chief of the British newspaper Financial Times and award-winning journalists investigating corruption in their country are among the names whose mobile phones have been hacked by governments using software Israelis, according to The Guardian reports.
The British vehicle is one of 17 that began publishing on Sunday (18) an investigation into the misuse of the Pegasus software by the governments of at least ten countries to hack mobile phones and illegally collect sensitive information about journalists, human rights activists, clerics, lawyers and academics, among others.
Developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, Pegasus is malware – a program designed to infect computers or other devices – capable of accessing smartphones without the user of the device necessarily having to click on links. malicious or negligent on the Internet. Thus, it is possible to extract sensitive content, such as messages, photos and email exchanges, in addition to remotely and secretly triggering cameras and microphones.
According to a new Guardian report, two numbers belonging to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest political rival are among the more than 50,000 cellphones on the list, compiled by non-profit organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International.
Rahul Ghandi, who led the Congress Party at the time of the 2019 national elections, was included as a possible surveillance target the year before the poll and a few months after the election. The phone numbers of at least five close friends of Ghandi and other party officials were also identified in the leak.
It is not possible to say if a phone on the list was actually hacked, but the press consortium investigating the case has confirmed signs of Pegasus infection in 10 Indian numbers and 27 other cellphones around the world. .
Ghandi, who frequently changes devices to avoid being spied on, could not provide the cell phone used at the time of the exam. If he had actually been hacked, Modi would have had access to the private data of his biggest competitor in the election.
Analysis of more than 1,000 Indian numbers on the list shows strong evidence that the country’s government intelligence agencies are behind the surveillance.
Separatist leaders in the Kashmir region, Pakistani diplomats and even figures that may have been used by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are on file.
Another Guardian report claims more than 180 editors, investigative journalists and other journalists around the world are on the list. One example is Roula Khalaf, the first woman to be the editor of the Financial Times. Analysis of the data suggests that Khalaf’s phone was selected in 2018 as a target by the UAE.
Other reporters listed as possible targets include Mexican freelance writer Cecilio Pinero Birto, who was murdered by an armed group a month after his phone number was listed, and Indian Guha Thakurta, who investigated the use by the government of social networks Narendra Modi to spread disinformation.
The hacking of the cell phone of Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani journalist awarded for her reporting on the illicit enrichment of politicians, has also been confirmed. She has been the target of harassment and intimidation for her work, having had a hidden camera installed in her home and intimate videos of her have been shown.
The NSO Group has denied what it calls “false allegations” in the reports and said it was selling the technology only to intelligence and security agencies who would use it to fight criminals and terrorists.
Israeli politicians want to suspend Pegasus exports
On Monday, Israel’s Meretz party, a member of the country’s governing coalition, said it would question the defense minister about Pegasus exports.
The Israeli Defense Ministry, headed by Benny Gantz, is responsible for software export licenses. On Monday, Nitzan Horowitz, Minister of Health and head of Meretz, said he would meet with Gantz on Thursday (22) to discuss the matter.
In a televised Meretz meeting, MK Mossi Raz urged the party to call for a suspension of exports by the Israeli government, which he compared to “the export of arms to non-democratic countries, which is not allowed”.
Another MP, however, former military leader Yair Golan, was more measured, saying the reports “seemed biased, motivated by commerce” and adding that “it is not just the ONS that is doing these things”.
Also on Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said if the complaint is true it is “totally unacceptable”.
“It has to be proven, but if it is, it is totally unacceptable,” von der Leyen told reporters in Prague.
Von der Leyen, who is traveling to Prague to present the post-covid recovery plan approved by the European Union, notably raised the allegations of espionage against journalists. “Freedom of the press is one of the fundamental values of the European Union,” he said.