The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab published a report on Wednesday claiming that at least 22 journalists from the independent Salvadoran news site El Faro have been targeted with sophisticated spyware.
According to the report, the mobile phones of the journalists have been hacked and implanted with Pegasus spyware typically available only to governments and law enforcement.
The report detailed how El Faro was under surveillance for at least 17 months with Editor-in-Chief Oscar Martinez’s phone infiltrated at least 42 times and several gigabytes of materials extracted from the devices.
“Learning of the spying against us hasn’t come as a surprise, but the quantity, frequency, and duration of the infections have. Almost all of El Faro has been infected,” El Faro’s founding director Carlos Dada said.
Citizen Lab researchers said they had identified an operator of the spyware working exclusively in El Salvador and targeting journalists and activists, many of whom were investigating alleged state corruption.
“This is jaw-droppingly aggressive and persistent targeting,” senior researcher and author of the report John Scott-Railton said.
Meanwhile, Israeli firm NSO Group, maker of Pegasus technology, said it sells its spyware only to legitimate government law enforcement and intelligence agencies, vetted by Israel’s defense ministry, to investigate terrorism and other serious crimes.
“NSO’s firm stance on these issues is that the use of cyber tools to monitor dissidents, activists, and journalists is a severe misuse of any technology and goes against the desired use of such critical tools,” NSO Group said in a statement on Wednesday.
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