The report claims that the hacking focused not less than 22 journalists from El Faro — the influential El Salvadoran digital information outlet — in addition to journalists from a number of different shops.
Carlos Dada, the founder and director of El Faro, alleges that the Salvadoran authorities is liable for the hacking.
“It hasn’t surprised us to know we were hacked but the amount, frequency and duration of the hacking did. Nearly everyone at El Faro has been hacked,” Dada mentioned.
The report from Entry Now and Citizen Lab mentioned the assaults first started in July 2020 and continued till mid-November 2021.
Impartial specialists from Amnesty Worldwide reviewed the findings of the report and concurred with its conclusions.
“The use of Pegasus for the surveillance of communications in El Salvador reveals a new threat to human rights in the country,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty Worldwide Americas Director mentioned in a Thursday assertion.
“The authorities must stop any efforts to restrict freedom of expression and conduct a thorough and impartial investigation to identify those responsible,” Guevara-Rosas mentioned.
Julia Gavarrete was one of many El Faro journalists whose cellphone was hacked. She mentioned that she was at a authorities press convention in 2020 when somebody broke into her house and stole her pc and some belongings. She speculates that it might need one thing to do with the hacking.
“You can feel fear, but at the end, you know that you are doing things that are correct and you can not give them the power to control your life,” Gavarrete advised CNN.
Gavarrete mentioned whereas she can not straight show that the federal government is liable for the assaults, the timings of the assaults had been conspicuous as a result of they appeared to line up neatly with tales she and her colleagues had been pursuing on the time that might show damaging to the federal government.
Authorities denies spying
President Nayib Bukele’s administration has rejected the declare that it was behind the hacking.
“The government of El Salvador doesn’t have the resources nor the licenses to utilize this type of software,” Sofía Medina, Bukele’s communication secretary mentioned in an announcement. Medina mentioned that the federal government just isn’t related to the usage of Pegasus software program, nor to the corporate that created it, an Israeli firm known as NSO Group.
Medina added that in November, she obtained an alert from Apple — as did others within the authorities — a few doable hack into her mobile phone.
“We have indications that members of the government were also victims of these attacks,” mentioned Medina, including that the federal government is already investigating the usage of Pegasus and different methods to hack cell telephones within the nation.
CNN has requested the NSO Group for touch upon the findings of the brand new investigation, however has not but obtained a direct response.
In an announcement, the corporate mentioned its methods weren’t at present lively in El Salvador however promised an investigation as soon as it receives the phone numbers of these telephones that had allegedly been hacked to find out if there had been previous misuse of its methods.
NSO Group mentioned that it solely gives software program and that it does not actively function the expertise — nor does it have entry to the info is subsequently collects. The corporate added that the usage of its cybersecurity instruments to watch dissidents, activists and journalists is a severe misuse of that expertise.
On its web site, NSO Group says that it solely seeks purchasers who will use their product for the “legal and necessary needs of prevention and investigation of terrorism and other grave crimes.”
NSO Group says for that purpose, it solely grants licenses to these authorities intelligence and legislation enforcement companies following what it calls a strategy of investigation and licensing by the Israeli Ministry of Protection.
Responding to previous allegations of misuse of its merchandise, NSO Group advised CNN in an e-mail assertion: “We regret to see, time and time again, how the name of our company is mentioned in news that has nothing to do with NSO, directly or indirectly.”
El Salvador is certainly one of 25 international locations who governments had acquired surveillance methods from Circles, an organization affiliated with NSO Group, based on a examine revealed in December of 2020 by Citizen Lab.
In response to that report, the system started working in 2017 throughout a earlier administration. CNN tried to succeed in the then Vice President Óscar Ortiz about these claims, however a request for remark was not answered.
David von Blohn and CNN’s Hande Atay Alam contributed to this report.