The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, a spyware research center, announced Tuesday, August 24, that it was able to confirm that the phones of nine political activists from Bahrain had been hacked, between June 2020 and February 2021, thanks to the Pegasus software.
Designed by the Israeli company NSO Group, Pegasus allows, once installed on a phone, to access almost all of its content. In July, The world and sixteen other editorial staff coordinated by Forbidden Stories had revealed, in a series of articles based on a list of potential targets for the software, the extent of surveillance some countries engage in using this software.
Also listen Pegasus: at the heart of a global investigation into phone spying
The numbers of five of the nine hacked phones were in data analyzed by Forbidden Stories and its partners. In addition, the Citizen Lab affirms, with “A high degree of confidence”, that four of the nine phones were hacked by a Bahraini security service. Other victims may have been targeted by security services in other countries.
The government of Bahrain, for its part, affirmed that “These claims are based on unfounded claims and flawed conclusions. The government of Bahrain is committed to the preservation of individual rights and freedoms ”.
Human rights activists and dissidents targeted
The Citizen Lab does not give the identity of all the victims it has been able to identify, but explains that three of them are part of the Waad, a liberal opposition movement, banned since the violent repression of the 2017 demonstrations; three others belong to the human rights organization Bahrain Center for Human Rights; another, to the Shiite political movement Al Wefaq; and two are from opponents living in exile in the UK.
NSO Group claims to have monitoring procedures in place to ensure that its customers do not use the software for purposes other than fighting crime and terrorism, and to investigate suspicions of abuse. Corn “Bahrain’s misuse of spyware was tragically predictable”, writes the Citizen Lab, citing multiple examples of human rights violations in the country.
“While NSO Group regularly attempts to discredit reports of misuse of their software, their customer list includes several countries known for their misuse of surveillance technologies., writes Citizen Lab. The sale of Pegasus to Bahrain is particularly scandalous, given that multiple serious abuses have been documented in the country, via monitoring software sold by Trovicor, FinFisher, Cellebrite and, now, NSO Group. “
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