Project Pegasus: Why 17 media outlets are working together to cover spyware on a massive scale.

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Dozens of journalists from seventeen news organizations collaborated to uncover evidence of industrial-scale espionage targeting journalists, activists, politicians and business leaders.

And the revelations are only just beginning.

The consortium began publishing its findings on Sunday. Stories indicate that many members of the media were “possible candidates for surveillance,” as The Guardian put it. Forensic tests have confirmed the presence of spyware on some phones.

Others will be released in the coming days. Participating news outlets dub it “Project Pegasus,” taking the name of spyware Pegasus, which is apparently licensed by NSO Group to track down terrorists and serious criminals. How was the spyware used? Has he been abused? These are two of the key questions.

First of all…

How did this investigation start? Washington Post editor-in-chief Sally Buzbee explained in a letter from the editor on Sunday afternoon. “The project was conceived by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit journalism organization, which, along with Amnesty International, a human rights group, had access to the documents that formed the basis of our reporting: a list of over 50,000 country numbers known to monitor their citizens and also known to have been customers of the NSO group, ”Buzbee wrote.

“While the purpose of the list could not be conclusively determined, it is a fascinating document,” Buzbee wrote. “Of the more than 1,000 identities that could be confirmed, there were at least 85 human rights activists, 65 business leaders, several members of Arab royal families, 189 journalists and 600 government officials and politicians, spread across more than 50 countries. “

Amnesty’s security lab was able to examine 67 smartphones. “Of these, 23 were successfully infected and 14 showed signs of attempted penetration,” WaPo reported. “For the remaining 30, the tests were inconclusive, in several cases because the phones had been replaced.”

WaPo interviewed some of those involved, including Siddharth Varadarajan, co-founder of The Wire, a nonprofit media outlet in India. “It’s an incredible intrusion, and journalists shouldn’t have to deal with it,” he said after learning his phone was infected. “No one should have to deal with this.”

Who is on the list?

This is what WaPo reported: “Among the journalists whose numbers appear on the list, which dates back to 2016, are journalists working overseas for several major news organizations, including a small number from CNN, The Associated Press, Voice of America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Le Monde in France, The Financial Times in London and Al Jazeera in Qatar. “

There is a lot of uncertainty associated with this, as Devan Cole noted in an article for CNN.com. But Amnesty General Secretary Agnès Callamard stormed out. “The number of journalists identified as targets vividly illustrates how Pegasus is being used as a tool to intimidate critical media. It is about controlling public discourse, resisting scrutiny and suppressing any dissenting voice,” he said. Callamard said on Sunday.

I was also struck by this line in the WaPo story: “After the investigation began, several journalists from the consortium learned that they or their family members had been successfully attacked by the software. spy Pegasus.

“Outdoors…”

CNN has not independently verified the findings of the Project Pegasus investigation. The seventeen participating media are Forbidden Stories, The Washington Post, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit, The Guardian, Daraj, Direkt36, Le Soir, Knack, Radio France, The Wire, Proceso, Aristegui Noticias, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Haaretz and PBS “Frontline”.

For an overview of the results achieved so far, “Frontline” maintains a live blog with links to key stories from other partners.
Here is the key quote from Dana Priest, one of the signatures of the WaPo report, who also appears in a “Frontline” report. “For the first time,” Priest said, “we were able to give readers a sense of the scale of private and unregulated espionage activity. It has been a unique, and indeed exciting, experience to work on. with so many foreign journalists to pool our sources and resources to bring this difficult story to light, where it should be. “

NSO Group Response

Quoting the Devan Cole story: “In a lengthy statement to CNN on Sunday, NSO Group strongly denied the investigation’s findings, claiming in part that it sells its” technologies only to law enforcement and law enforcement agencies. intelligence of controlled governments for the sole purpose of saving lives by preventing crime and terrorist acts. ‘”

NSO Group also said it “does not operate the system and has no visibility into the data.” He said he would continue to investigate “all credible allegations of abuse and take appropriate action based on the results” of such investigations …

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