Activists’ phones targeted by one of the world’s most advanced spyware apps

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Mobile phones of two prominent human rights activists were repeatedly targeted with Pegasus, the highly advanced spyware made by Israel-based NSO, researchers from Amnesty International reported this week.

The Moroccan human rights defenders received SMS text messages containing links to malicious sites. If clicked, the sites would attempt to install Pegasus, which as reported here and here, is one of the most advanced and full-featured pieces of spyware ever to come to light. One of the activists was also repeatedly subjected to attacks that redirected visits intended for Yahoo to malicious sites. Amnesty International identified the targets as activist Maâti Monjib and human rights lawyer Abdessadak El Bouchattaoui.

Serial pwner

It’s not the first time NSO spyware has been used to surveil activists or dissidents. In 2016, United Arab Emirates dissident Ahmed Mansoor received text messages that tried to lure him to a site that would install Pegasus on his fully patched iPhone. The site relied on three separate zeroday vulnerabilities in iOS. According to previous reports from Univision, Amnesty International, and University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab, NSO spyware has also targeted:

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