What we know about new investigations into Pegasus, the spyware targeting journalists

A string of reports from a new consortium called the Pegasus Project is shedding light on how an invasive piece of spyware has been used to target journalists and activists around the world. As the investigation aims to throw light on significant events cased by the spyware,here’s a rundown of what these initial reports have revealed so far.

What is Pegasus?

Pegasus is a type of spyware developed by Israel-based NSO Group. It could reside on your phone and track all your activities.

Pegasus entered the limelight in 2019, when it allegedly exploited a bug in WhatsApp to gain access to hundreds of smartphones across the world. Later, WhatsApp even filed a lawsuit in the US against the company, for helping governments snoop on more than 1,400 individuals across the globe.

The spyware was also believed to have played part in notable events such as journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and the breach of Jeff Bezos’ phone that led to his divorce.

What is Pegasus Project?

Pegasus Project is a widespread investigation into NSO group-built spyware and who was affected by it. It involves Forbidden Stories, a non-profit to help journalists uncover stories; Amnesty International, a global human rights organization; and 80 journalists from 17 media organizations across the globe.

The project will try and reveal the extent of damage caused by Pegasus spyware across the world and how people were impacted by it.

What do we know so far?

Forbidden Stories got access to a list of 50,000 phone numbers that could be targeted individuals with the Pegasus spyware. The early reports from the Pegasus Project partners suggest that there’s no evidence all of these numbers might have been targeted, but they could be persons of interest for government agencies.

Journalists involved in the project were able to identify and verify about 1,000 numbers across the globe.

The Pegasus Project alleged that at least 10 governments were trying to punch in numbers in a secret system to monitor their targets in some way. These countries included Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Amnesty international ran forensic tests across 67 phones out of which, 37 phones were found to have traces of the Pegasus Spyware. Canada-based Citizen Labs also verified these findings to solidify earlier observations.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons