El Salvador journalists hacked with Pegasus spyware: report | News | DW | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

Dozens of journalists and human rights activists in El Salvador had their cellphones repeatedly hacked over the past year and a half, an internet watchdog said on Wednesday.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab identified a Pegasus spyware operator that was working almost exclusively in El Salvador in early 2020.

The NSO group hacking software Pegasus targets mobile phones

Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group. It targets mobile phones.

NSO, which was blacklisted by the US government last year, says it sells its spyware only to legitimate law enforcement and intelligence agencies betted by Israel’s Defense Ministry.

‘Improper use of Pegasus’

The analysis was reviewed by Amnesty International’s Security Lab.

“Experts from the Amnesty International Security Lab have reviewed the report and independently verified forensic evidence that show improper use of Pegasus in the country,” the organization said in a press release.

While the report could not conclusively link the hacks to the Salvadorean government, it said that “the strong country-specific focus of the infections suggests that this is very likely.”

Nayib Bukele speaks at a press conference in San Salvador

El Salvador president Bukele denies alleged dealmaking with street gangs

What did the government say?

Sofia Medina, spokeswoman for El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, said that “El Salvador is no way associated with Pegasus, nor is it a client of NSO Group.”

She added that the El Salvador’s government was investigating the use of Pegasus to hack phones in the country.

Some of the journalists identified by the report as targets had been working for the news site El Faro, which was running stories on the Bukele administration’s alleged dealmaking with El Salvador’s street gangs.

Bukele has denied there was any involvement with the gangs.

sdi/fb (AP, EFE, Reuters)

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