A new report claims that a powerful spyware previously used to hack the phones of journalists, activists, and other targets has targeted hundreds of figures around the world by hacking thousands of phones, the New York Post reports.
According to an original report by the Washington Post, the hacks are coming from the NSO Group, a private technology firm based in Israel. The software in question is known as Pegasus, which can be sent in a direct message that does not even need to be clicked on in order to successfully hack a targeted device. Subsequently, the hackers may gain access to anything on the phone, including the camera and microphone.
At least 23 phones were successfully hacked by this program, with another 14 facing attempted breaches that were ultimately unsuccessful. The report covered records as far back as 2016, where over 50,000 phones were voluntarily submitted under the suspicions that they had been hacked. In total, over 1,000 people were found to have been hacked across 50 countries. Of those 1,000, 189 were journalists while roughly 600 were politicians or government employees.
Among the targets were the wife and girlfriend of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared in 2019 and was believed to have been murdered by government forces. His wife was targeted for hacking prior to his disappearance, while his girlfriend was targeted afterwards.
Responding to the report, a libel attorney for NSO Group claimed that the thousands of phones listed as possibly being hacked were “not targeted by governments using Pegasus, but instead, may be part of a larger list of numbers that might have been used by NSO Group customers for other purposes.”