Journalists and activists in El Salvador- 9to5Mac

    Another suspected NSO phone hack has come to light, this of journalists and activists in El Salvador. Most of the journalists were working for an online news service which has been reporting extensively on alleged government corruption.

    Two journalists contacted Citizen Lab after suspecting that their phones had been compromised, and an investigation confirmed their suspicions, and found that they weren’t the only ones …

    Reuters reports.

    The cell phones of nearly three dozen journalists and activists in El Salvador, several of whom were investigating alleged state corruption, have been hacked since mid-2020 and implanted with sophisticated spyware typically available only to governments and law enforcement, a Canadian research institute said it has found.

    The alleged hacks, which came amid an increasingly hostile environment in El Salvador for media and rights organizations under populist President Nayib Bukele, were discovered […] by Citizen Lab […]

    Human-rights group Amnesty International, which collaborated with Citizen Lab on the investigation, says it later confirmed a sample of Citizen Lab’s findings through its own technology arm.

    Citizen Lab said it found evidence of incursions on the phones that occurred between July 2020 and November 2021. It said it could not identify who was responsible for deploying the Israeli-designed spyware. Known as Pegasus, the software has been purchased by state actors worldwide, some of whom have used the tool to surveil journalists.

    Online news site El Faro, which has reported extensively on government scandals, appeared to have been the primary target, with 22 phones hacked. Editor-in-Chief Oscar Martinez said that it seemed clear that the government was behind the attacks.

    President Bukele’s office denied that the government used Pegasus, while NSO declined to comment. The government appears to have acknowledged that Pegasus was used to hack the phones, but claimed that some unspecified ‘powerful group’ was responsible.

    NSO has been in financial trouble since a US government ban and Apple taking action against the company. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) recently offered some tips on how to guard against cyber attacks.

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