Computer hackers find their way in through a software program’s hidden backdoors and cracked windows. Like cockroaches, they’re modern-day burglars who can squeeze into even the tiniest of undetected openings, and they aren’t limited to a few houses and unlocked cars. The world is literally their virtual oyster, and their keyboards hold the keys.
Some hackers are good enough at their chosen profession to land legit jobs keeping their brothers in arms from hacking whatever firm hired them. It’s reminiscent of street gangs charging local businesses for protection. Pay up or pay an even higher price. Your choice.
The largest hacker-for-hire firm on the planet, operating under the auspices of a legitimate software security company, is the Israeli cyber surveillance company, NSO Group. The group is well-armed with their own proprietory military-grade spyware known as Pegasus, but according to recent investigations and allegations, they crossed the line of legitimacy a long time ago.
Over 50,000 journalists, political activists, attorneys, and anyone else deemed to be of interest, have been hacked and are being watched like hawks, their every keystroke monitored, their every phone call listened to, and their every text message being read. Pegasus can be remotely installed on anyone’s cellphone and it takes the best of the best to detect its presence.
A new report from a global media consortium indicates NSOs illegal activity goes deeper than originally thought. They’ve also been keeping an eye on anyone considered even semi-close to the people they’re already spying on, be they friends, neighbors, family, or illicit backseat lovers. They have the low-down on all of them and they pass the information on to the clients who pay them to gather it.
It was Amnesty International that by hook or by crook came up with a list of phone numbers of the people being watched which they immediately reported to major world news outlets.
NSO Group is denying its hand being caught in the cookie jar but concrete evidence says otherwise. They claim their highly secure website is only accessible by the military, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement, and that it is expressly used for tracking criminals and terrorists.
The not-for-profit news agency, Forbidden Stories, in cahoots with Amnesty International, conducted the investigation. They say they’ve uncovered “irrefutable evidence” that NSOs’ spyware has successfully found its way into iPhone 11s and 12s. If you own either of these models, take it to an expert. The report said thousands of them have been affected. You may not be a target, but still…you could be. Just saying…
Deputy director of Amnesty Tech, Danna Ingleton, said, “These attacks have exposed activists, journalists and politicians all over the world to the risk of having their whereabouts monitored, and their personal information used against them.” NSO is being paid under the table to dig up dirt.
“NSO Group can no longer hide behind the claim that its spyware is only used to fight crime. There is overwhelming evidence that NSO spyware is being systematically used for repression and other human rights violations,” Ingleton added.
Media groups took the list of phone numbers and ran with it. They found the numbers of journalists from CNN, the New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, and countless others located throughout a 50 country span.
One of the numbers belonged to none other than Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. But not just him. The target list included his family members, his aides, and even his doctor. Altogether, a total of 50 people associated with the president in one capacity or another made the list. Even the family gardener.
At least through 2018 and perhaps still, the editor of the Financial Times, Roula Khalaf, was being surveilled in efforts to find out if he was leaving any important statistics out of articles that could be used for devious intent.
Google Android phones aren’t safe either. Thousands of them have been identified as potential targets. The report said, “their operating systems do not keep accessible logs useful for detecting Pegasus spyware infection.” Since the iPhone models are supposedly equipped with a much higher level of security than the Android, infiltrating them is a cakewalk.
Ingleton said, “Apple prides itself on its security and privacy features, but NSO Group has ripped these apart. This is a global concern – anyone and everyone is at risk, and even technology giants like Apple are ill-equipped to deal with the massive scale of surveillance at hand.”
This story is continuing to break. We’ll keep you updated as more information is released so keep checking back. In the meantime, be careful out there, you never who might be watching and listening.