How NSO became the company whose software can spy on the world

The Pegasus project has raised new concerns about the Israeli firm, which is a world leader in the niche surveillance market

In 2019, when NSO Group was facing intense scrutiny, new investors in the Israeli surveillance company were on a PR offensive to reassure human rights groups.

In an exchange of public letters in 2019, they told Amnesty International and other activists that they would do “whatever is necessary” to ensure NSO’s weapons-grade software would only be used to fight crime and terrorism.

What is in the data leak?

The Pegasus project is a collaborative journalistic investigation into the NSO Group and its clients. The company sells surveillance technology to governments worldwide. Its flagship product is Pegasus, spying software – or spyware – that targets iPhones and Android devices. Once a phone is infected, a Pegasus operator can secretly extract chats, photos, emails and location data, or activate microphones and cameras without a user knowing.

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The Pegasus project: why investigations like this are at the heart of the Guardian’s mission

Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner reflects on our recent investigation into NSO Group, which sells hacking spyware used by governments around the world, and explains why journalism like this is so vital

When the Guardian’s head of investigations, Paul Lewis, first told me about a huge data leak suggesting authoritarian regimes were possibly using smartphone hacking software to target activists, politicians and journalists, perhaps the worst part is that I wasn’t particularly surprised.

Related: What is Pegasus spyware and how does it hack phones?

Related: Huge data leak shatters lie that the innocent need not fear surveillance

Related: The Pegasus project part 1: an invitation to Paris

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Related: How you helped the Guardian report on the year that changed everything | Katharine Viner

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