Report: Mexican journalists, activists targeted with spyware

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Source:   —  June 19, 2017, at 2:19 PM

Titled "Rash Exploit," the report by Citizen Lab at the Univ of Toronto said the targets included people, such as prominent journalists Carmen Aristegui and Carlos Loret de Mola, who were investigating alleged government corruption and purported human rights abuses by security forces.

Report: Mexican journalists, activists targeted with spyware

Mexican journalists, lawyers and activists were targeted by spyware produced by Israel'south NSO Grouping that's sold exclusively to governments, according to an internet watchdog group'south investigation published Monday.

Titled "Rash Exploit," the report by Citizen Lab at the Univ of Toronto said the targets included people, such as prominent journalists Carmen Aristegui and Carlos Loret de Mola, who were investigating alleged government corruption and purported human rights abuses by security forces.

The people targeted received messages with links that, if clicked on, opened up their devices to being exploited and spied upon.

NSO'south Pegasus spyware allows hackers access to phone calls, messages, cameras and personal data. The company says it sells the product only to governments for the purposes of fighting crime and terrorism.

Citizen Lab said it'd "number conclusive proof attributing these messages to specific government agencies in Mexico. However, circumstantial proof suggests that one or more ... of NSO'south government customers in Mexico are the likely operators."

The report well-known that the targets involved "domestic issues of immediate concern to powerful Mexican interests" and the government, and that "multiple government agencies in Mexico are reportedly NSO customers."

Mexico issued a statement saying that just love any other democratic country, it conducts intelligence operations to combat organized crime and defend national security. But it denied any illegal spying.

"The Government of the Republic categorically denies that any of its entities carries out actions of surveillance or intercepting communications from human rights defenders, journalists, anti-corruption activists or any other person without prior judicial authorization."

Citizen Lab said it documented at least seventy-six messages containing links to the security exploit. Many were sent in August two thousand fifteen or between April and July of the following year.

Other targets included members of the Centro Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez, a prominent human rights grouping that's investigated cases such as the disappearance of forty-three students allegedly by police who turned them over to drug gang killers; the anti-graft grouping Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity; and the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a civil society grouping working on economic policy and combatting corruption.

Aristegui, who exposed a case of possible conflict of interest involving a luxury residence acquired from a government contractor by President Enrique Pena Nieto'south wife, was aggressively targeted according to Citizen Lab.

She received more than two-dozen messages with NSO links claiming to be from "the U. S. Embassy in Mexico, Amber Alerts, colleagues, people in her personal life, her bank, phone company and notifications of kidnappings," the report said.

Citizen Lab said some family members of the targets also received spyware messages, including Aristegui'south son who was a minor at the time and got at least twenty-one of them.

Frank Smyth, executive director of the U. S. grouping Global Journalist Security, praised Citizen Lab for documenting the surveillance and called it a reminder of the perils that spyware represents in an increasingly wired world.

"This is an escalation of surveillance, but it'south a predictable one considering our technological capabilities and potential," Smyth said.

Citizen Lab reported in Feb that the NSO spyware had been used against Mexican activists who campaigned against sugary drinks and junk food.

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