Israeli spyware used to target phones of journalists and activists, investigation finds

An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building of the Israeli NSO group in Herzliya near Tel Aviv on August 28, 2016.

Jack Guez | AFP | Getty Images

According to a comprehensive investigation by the Washington Post and 16 other news organizations, private Israeli spy software was used to hack dozens of smartphones belonging to reporters, human rights activists, business people and the fiancé of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The military-grade spyware was reportedly licensed by Israeli spyware company NSO Group. The investigation found that the hacked phones were on a list of more than 50,000 numbers in countries known to monitor people.

The list of numbers was made available to the Post and other media organizations by the Paris-based nonprofit journalism organization Hidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International.

The NSO Group denied the results of the report in several statements, arguing that the investigation contained “unconfirmed theories” based on “misleading interpretation of leaked data from accessible and overt basic information”.

The NSO Group also said it would continue to investigate all credible allegations of abuse and take appropriate action.

NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware is licensed to governments around the world and can, according to the report, hack a cellphone’s data and activate the microphone. NSO said the spyware is only used to monitor terrorists and other criminals.

Read the full report here.

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