Faizel Patel – 22/07/2021
New evidence uncovered by the Pegasus Project has revealed that the phone numbers for 14 heads of states, including our own President Cyril Ramaphosa were selected as people of interest by clients of Israeli spyware company NSO Group.
The evidence also includes the phone numbers of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, Uganda’s Ruhakana Rugunda, and Belgium’s Charles Michel among others.
The investigation also revealed that Pegasus zero-click attacks have been used to install spyware on iPhones.
Amnesty International was able to confirm that thousands of iPhones were listed as potential targets for Pegasus spyware, though it was not possible to confirm how many were successfully hacked.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Amnesty International’s Shenilla Mohamed says the findings are very concerning.
“This has been worrying us for some time now because we had seen the way in which journalists and activists are being targeted and of course we wanted to know how they are getting the information that they want in order to attack them. So coming up with this list of 14 heads of state was quite unprecedented for us because we started of looking at activists and journalists. But this is worrying and in fact heads of state should really be worried because if we discovered 14, God knows how many other heads of state are being monitored by clients of this Israeli company.”
Mohamed says it is surprising that Apple who prides itself on privacy for its customers was vulnerable to spyware from the NSO Group.
“Apple prides itself on the amount of money and the technical expertise that they claim they put in the protection of these phones. Our research shows that iPhones were actually the most vulnerable to this spyware and the Apple 10,11 and 12 in particular. That just shows you how sophisticated this spyware is that even companies like Apple haven’t developed anything to counter it.”
Mohmed says following the release of Amnesty International’s findings, the organisation is now calling for an immediate moratorium on the export sale transfer and use of surveillance technology and also urging Israel not authorise licences for the export of NSO goods by the surveillance technology if there substantial risk if it is used for human rights violations.
The Pegasus Project is a ground-breaking collaboration by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media non-profit, with the technical support of Amnesty International, who conducted cutting- edge forensic tests on mobile phones to identify traces of the spyware.
Listen to the interview with Shenilla Mohamed