Salvadoran journalists denounce the NSO Group, creator of Pegasus, in the US

A group of 15 journalists and administrators of the Salvadoran digital media The lighthouse filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court in California against the technology company NSO Group, creator of Pegasus software, which they accuse of violating fraud and computer abuse laws.

The lawsuit against NSO, an Israeli company financed and controlled by US-based companies, seeks that the court condemn the company and force it to reveal the identity of the customers who used the Pegasus software to spy on reporters and other workers The lighthouse.

“The use of the spyware created by NSO (..) represents one of the main threats to freedom of the press and democracy today¨, said to EFE Caroline DeCell, one of the attorneys leading the case.

Between June 2020 and November 2021, at least 22 of the little more than 30 members of The lighthouse were victims of attacks with the Pegasus software, explains the court document.

With the lawsuit, journalists affected by espionage hope to “set a precedent” explained to EFE José Luis Sanz, correspondent for The lighthouse in Washington DC and one of the plaintiffs.

Sanz and his companions decided to go to the United States Justice since “In El Salvador, illegal espionage cannot be prosecuted, because there is no judicial independence”.

Several organizations, including Amnesty International (AI), confirmed that the Salvadoran government was behind the spying on the reporters, something that has been denied since the Nayib Bukele Administration.

The Pegasus software has been used by governments such as the Mexico, Arabia, Saudi or India to spy on activists and journalists, as revealed in 2021 by the Pegasus Project investigation.

In November of that year, the United States Department of Commerce added NSO to a list of companies whose business activity is restricted in the country for having developed and sold spyware to foreign governments who have used it to persecute journalists and political dissidents.

The Pegasus program can be installed on a device without its owner noticing. With this, the client has access to a person’s contact list, calendar, text messages, emails, Internet searches and GPS location, and can also activate the device’s camera or microphone and record material, details the demand.

According to the lawyers, the companies NSO and Q accessed servers of Apple, the California-based electronics giant, to identify vulnerabilities in Apple software and access iPhone mobile phones and their information stored in the cloud through spyware.

As early as 2021, Apple sued the companies, headquartered in Israel, for damage to your business and your users.

This lawsuit against NSO is the first of its kind filed against the Israeli company in the United States. for the damage caused to journalists.

(With information from EFE)