One Nation Still Spying on Civilians With Potent Tool

Israeli military spies on civilians with Pegasus despite promises to stop, reports 'New York Times'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2023 3:40 PM CDT
In Mexico, the World's Most Potent Spyware Flourishes
In this 2021 file photo, a logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

It is, write Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman in the New York Times, the "world's most infamous spyware." The pair do a deep dive into Pegasus, a surveillance tool that can compromise every piece of data on a target's phone—even encrypted phones—including the camera. Pegasus is made by the Israeli company NSO, and so many privacy abuses have been reported in so many countries since its debut in 2011, that the Israeli government promised to ban sales to nations where there was a high risk of misuse. The US, meanwhile, sees Pegasus as so dangerous it has blacklisted NSO and barred American companies from selling its equipment. The story, however, focuses on one nation where Pegasus appears to be flourishing, and not just against criminals—Mexico. At this point, the nation's military has "targeted more cellphones with the spyware than any other government agency in the world."

The Mexican government was the first to buy the tool more than a decade ago, and it famously helped authorities catch the drug lord known as El Chapo. "Mexico went on to wield the surveillance tool against civilians who stand up to the state—abuses the country insists it has stopped," per the story. But the newspaper's investigation "found that Mexico has continued to use Pegasus to spy on people who defend human rights, even in recent months." In the latter half of 2022, for example, the military infiltrated the phones of two attorneys representing victims of a notorious mass disappearance in 2014. The kicker: The military was using the spyware at the time of the mass abduction of students to spy on the phones of people involved in the crime, per the story, but authorities did not use the intelligence to help find the students. (Read the full story.)

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