According to a forensic analysis conducted by a research and rights group published Wednesday, about 35 journalists and activists in El Salvador are highly invasive to extract information from mobile phones when the country’s civil liberties deteriorate. It was the target of Pegasus software.
In a joint study by organizations including Amnesty International and the University of Toronto research group Citizen Lab, spyware created by the Israeli company NSO Group for government clients included video and audio recordings, photos, contact information, and more. It turns out that it was used to hack the phone. A conversation between independent journalists and editors in 2020 and 2021.
John Scott Railton, Principal Researcher at Citizen Lab, said:
Some of the affected people were about 20 of El Faro, a local media publication that exposed corruption scandals and secret truce negotiations between the El Salvador government and imprisoned gang leaders in financial and prison interests. Found a journalist.
The group, which aimed to protect the privacy and freedom of expression of the Internet, could not identify the person responsible for monitoring mobile phones, but the hacking campaign was a government-led censorship targeting independent media in El Salvador. He said he was against the background of harassment. Salvador.
A spokesman for El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele denied journalists’ involvement in illegal surveillance and said authorities were investigating the use of Pegasus in the country. She added that the government was not a client of NSO Group and was not using Pegasus spyware.
A spokeswoman for NSO, which manufactures surveillance software, said the company was scrutinized by intelligence agencies and law enforcement to combat criminals, terrorists, and corruption rather than monitoring dissidents, activists, and journalists. He said it was only available to institutions. The company did not say whether El Salvador was a customer. The contract prohibits the identification of customers.
Carlos Dada, director of El Faro, said the hacks against journalists and editors were in line with two topics that the US government is watching carefully: secret negotiations with gangs and coverage of corruption cases.
“Everything refers to the government of El Salvador,” he added.
After announcing the disclosure of secret negotiations between the El Salvador government and the gang, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on senior Salvador officials involved in the negotiations, resulting in gangsters imprisoning sex workers and mobile phones as part of a ceasefire. Now available to leaders.
Forensic analysis also targeted journalists in several other media and activists in several organizations.
Sanctions were the latest downward spiral in bilateral relations as senior U.S. officials criticized President Bukele’s efforts to consolidate power by weakening the rule of law and institutions.In recent decades, rampant violence and endemic poverty in Central American countries have led to massive migration to the United States.
Access Now, a US-based digital rights organization, said the El Salvador case was one of the worst cases analyzed. According to forensic analysis, Mr. Dada’s phone was hacked 12 times over a total of over 160 days.
NSO Group software is said to be used by people all over the world. Including target According to Citizen Lab, in the UK, India, South Africa, Belgium, France, Uganda, Mexico and Morocco. The NSO said it sells the software to the government, provided it uses the software only to target spies, criminals and terrorists, not to monitor critics.
Last year, the U.S. government Blacklisted company, Restricts acquisition of US technology against allegations that Pegasus was improperly used. NSO is now Explore potential sales Or, according to those familiar with the matter, the closure of the spyware unit.
NSO filed a proceeding in late November for misusing its products and services. The NSO responded to the proceedings, saying that the technology has saved thousands of lives around the world and that pedophiles and terrorists are free to work in technology shelters.
At the same time, Apple warned several El Faro staff that state-sponsored attackers could target iPhones to gain access to sensitive data, communications, and even cameras and microphones.
“It’s like someone is deep in your personal life,” said Carlos Martínez, an investigative journalist at El Faro, whose iPhone has been hacked for more than 260 days, according to forensic analysis.
Dada said a warning from Apple has led El Faro to require forensic analysis by a group that has been tracking NSO activity for many years.
“”“It’s like someone is deep in your personal life.” “
He said cell phone hacking was part of the government’s harassment campaign against El Faro. In 2020, Bukele blamed money laundering on national television for news sites. We are currently undergoing four separate audits. Earlier last year, the US Commission on Human Rights investigating human rights abuses decided that the Government of El Salvador should take steps to “protect the integrity of life and individuals” of El Faro employees.
Bukele’s spokeswoman said Apple warned that her cell phone was targeted by senior officials, including herself and the Minister of Justice.
Citizen Lab and other organizations have “supported the group’s agenda behind the attack” by investigating only cases involving journalists and social activists and not hacking government-owned mobile phones. rice field.
“I’m a member of the El Salvadorian government, and if I get that Apple notice, I’ll ask myself if my government has hacked me,” said Scott Railton.
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Pegasus spyware deployed to El Salvador journalists and activists
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