Smartphones belonging to more than three dozen journalists, human rights activists, and business executives have been infected with powerful spyware that an Israeli firm sells, purportedly to catch terrorists and criminals, The Washington Post and other publications reported.
The handsets were infected with Pegasus, full-featured spyware developed by NSO Group. The Israel-based exploit seller has come under intense scrutiny in recent years after repressive governments in the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, and other countries have been found using the malware against journalists, activists, and other groups not affiliated with terrorism or crime.
Pegasus is frequently installed through “zero-click” exploits, such as those sent by text messages, which require no interaction from victims. After the exploits surreptitiously jailbreak or root a target’s iPhone or Android device, Pegasus immediately trawls through a wealth of the device’s resources. It copies call histories, text messages, calendar entries, and contacts. It is capable of activating the cameras and microphones of compromised phones to eavesdrop on nearby activities. It can also track a target’s movements and steal messages from end-to-end encrypted chat apps.
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