Jefferson Morley | March 21, 2019
Mexican Cartels Use Israeli Spyware to Target Journalists, Investigators Say
From Citizen Lab, and interdisciplinary investigators from the University of Toronto:
On May 15th, 2017, journalist Javier Valdez was shot dead as he left the offices of Riodoce, the newspaper that he founded to investigate cartels and organized crime in Sinaloa, Mexico. His killers pulled him from his car, shot him a dozen times, and stole his files, laptop, and mobile phone. His killing has been widely reported as a cartel hit.
In the days following the killing, his colleagues Andrés Villarreal and Ismael Bojórquez received carefully crafted text messages designed to trick them into clicking on exploit links. Clicking on the links would have infected their phones with Pegasus spyware. The spyware, developed by Israeli company NSO Group, is designed to infect and remotely monitor mobile phones.
Citizen Lab says that, with investigations by Citizen Lab and Amnesty International on a Saudi Arabian government operator, there are now 11 publicly-reported cases of journalists targeted with Pegasus spyware.
Citizen Lab contacted Novalpina Capital, a UK-based private equity fund, currently in the process of purchasing a majority stake in NSO Group. Novalpina’s 11 page response spent only two paragraphs addressing, and then dismissing, the nearly three years of reports connecting NSO Group to specific abuses.