Amnesty International, one of the most prominent non-profit human rights companies in the world, had one of its staff members targeted by Israel’s NSO Group.
The NSO Group is an Israeli company that’s mostly known for selling high-tech spyware and surveillance malware.
NSO used its most powerful spyware named Pegasus which is designed for iPhone, Android, and other mobile devices to target human rights activists and journalists, from Mexico to the United Arab Emirates.
Pegasus is used to hack mobile phones remotely, in order to access an incredible amount of data, including text messages, emails, WhatsApp messages, user’s location, microphone, and camera—all without the victim’s knowledge.
Not so long ago this spyware was used against one of the Amnesty International members in Saudi Arabia, according to a new report published today.
Amnesty says that one of its researchers focused on Saudi Arabia received a suspicious WhatsApp message which contained a link impersonating an Arabic news website.
After analyzing the messages, researchers said other similar malicious links have widely been shared across people in the Gulf region in WhatsApp groups and on Twitter at the beginning of June 2018.
In order to stay away from any threats like this, we recommend the install of antivirus for Windows or antivirus for Mac on every device that you own, depending on which OS your device is running.
If you are a company, it is also recommended to hire every year a specialized cybersecurity company that will run annual tests on your company’s network. These tests include penetration testing and ethical hacking tests;
According to the research group, clicking on these links potentially infects the targets’ phones with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.
NSO Group is known to only sell its spyware to governments. Their potent state hacking tools represent an extraordinarily invasive form of surveillance.
Once a Pegasus infection occurs the hackers behind it can do almost anything on an iPhone or Android device, including silently stealing messages, spying on phone calls, looking through the webcam and listening using the device microphone.
Fortunately, the Amnesty member avoided the infection by not responding to those messages.
Various reports indicate that up to 175 individuals may have been inappropriately targeted with NSO Group’s spyware in violation of their internationally recognized human rights.
It is clear that NSO Group is unable or unwilling to prevent its customers from misusing its powerful spyware tools.
Researchers were also able to develop a “fingerprint” of NSO’s attacks by rerouting targets from malicious links in messages to websites where attacks would launch, and found over 600 domains connected to NSO Group.
These sites are used as bait or as spy tools on activists in different countries including Zambia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Hungary, in addition to the Gulf.
We would continue to monitor this cyber war. Meanwhile, users should keep a keen eye out for any cyber attacks. Remember to use an antivirus for Windows or antivirus for Mac in every device that you own, depending on which OS your machine is running, If you are a company we recommend to hire every year a specialized cybersecurity company that will run annual tests on your company’s network, tests like this include: penetration testing and ethical hacking.