A cybersecurity watchdog reported on Tuesday that advanced spyware created by the Israeli company NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire firm, was used to hack nine activists’ iPhones from Bahrain.
The phones were successfully hacked by NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware between June 2020 and February 2021, according to the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and two political dissidents in exile were purportedly hacked. According to Citizen Lab, at least one of the activists was living in London at the time.
At least four of the activists were hacked by the Bahraini government, according to Citizen Lab, which has a history of utilizing commercially accessible spyware.
Bahrain’s government has a long history of crushing dissent. Its embassy did not respond to a request for comment immediately.
In a statement, NSO Group said it had not yet read the research but questioned Citizen Lab’s techniques and motivations. “If NSO receives reliable information related to the misuse of the system, the company will vigorously investigate the claims and act accordingly,” the company said.
The Citizen Lab discovered that the malware infected targeted iPhones, in some cases, without the users taking any action.
The company’s spyware program Pegasus was used in multiple successful or attempted phone intrusions of business executives, human rights activists, and others around the world, according to recent investigations by a media consortium. The corporation was widely criticized following the investigations, which were based on hacked data gathered by the Paris-based journalism NGO Forbidden Stories and the human rights organization Amnesty International.