At least 35 journalists and members of civil society have been infected with the NSO’s Pegasus spyware in El Salvador (via 9To5Mac). If you recall, exactly Pegasus was the spyware that was used to hack iPhones without leaving any traces of its existence in the system.
According to a report made by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, Pegasus was found on 37 devices. Most of the victims were journalists working for several media known for covering stories on potential corruption in El Salvador’s government. Pegasus is sophisticated spyware that may gather sensitive information and access the phone’s camera and microphone.
El Faro, an online news site, was apparently the primary target of the attack. According to the report, 22 of the hacked phones belonged to journalists working in El Faro.
In a statement to Reuters, El Faro’s editor-in-chief, Oscar Martínez, said, “It is hard for me to think or conclude something other than the government of El Salvador was behind the alleged hacks. It’s evident that there is a radical interest in understanding what El Faro is doing.”
In response to the accusations, El Salvador’s government said that it’s not a client of NSO Group Technologies, which is the company behind Pegasus, and stated that it also has an ongoing investigation into the phone hacking. El Salvador’s government also said that it has information that the phones of some high administration officials have also been infiltrated.
The Pegasus spyware in El Salvador was found after two journalists reached Citizen Lab. The journalists contacted Citizen Lab because they feared their phones had been hacked. After that, Citizen Lab launched an investigation and discovered that the phone hacks took place between July 2020 and November 2021.
What happened in El Salvador is another case where Pegasus was used to spy on journalists. As we previously reported, the Pegasus spyware was used on a journalist working for the New York Times. During his work around the Middle East, Ben Hubbard discovered that his iPhone had been hacked twice with Pegasus by Saudi Arabia.