NSO Group's Pegasus spyware used to spy on El Salvador journalists and activists

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What you need to know

  • Journalists and activists in El Salvador have been targeted by Pegasus spyware.
  • El Salvador government says it too has been a target.

The infamous NSO Group's spyware app, Pegasus, has been found to have been used to hack into devices owned by journalists and activists in El Salvador, according to a new report. The discovery was made after two journalists reached out to Citizen Lab with concerns that their devices had been compromised.

Both journalists and activists critical of alleged government corruption appear to have been targeted, with an investigation confirming that devices had indeed been attacked according to a Reuters report.

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.

President Nayib Bukele says that his country doesn't work with NSO Group, going on to also confirm that an investigation would be opened. It was also claimed that government officials were also targeted.

In a statement to Reuters, Bukele's communications office said the government of El Salvador was not a client of NSO Group Technologies, the company that developed Pegasus. It said the administration is investigating the alleged hacking and had information that some top administration officials also might have had their phones infiltrated."We have indications that we, government officials, are also victims of attacks," the statement said.

Pegasus has been used by various outfits to access text messages, call histories, and more on devices that they believe may be of interest. Those devices often belong to members of the press as well as anyone they believe to be a threat.

Apple recently filed a Lawsuit against NSO Group and reports suggest the outfit is considering closing the spyware operation as it burns through cash.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.