Two female activists for women’s rights in the Arab world have been targeted by the Pegasus spyware belonging to the Israeli NSO group, a new investigation revealed on Monday.
The investigation, carried out by Ireland-based human rights group Front Line Defenders, said that the phones of a Jordanian and a Bahraini women’s rights activist were hacked multiple times using the Pegasus spyware, which has been purchased by several repressive governments in the world.
“We cannot directly comment on a report we haven’t seen, nor investigate based on names received in a press inquiry,” the NSO told Israeli daily Haaretz following the investigation.
The two targets are Bahraini human rights activist Ebtisam Al-Saegh, who has been arrested in Bahrain for her activism in the past, and Jordanian human rights lawyer Hala Ahed Deeb, who represents the country’s biggest union and served as the head of the legal committee of the Jordanian Women’s Union.
The report stressed the gendered impact of NSO’s surveillance: “[Women targets] live in fear of how their personal information, including private photos, videos, and conversations, could be used against them at any given point, opening the door for harassment and abuse.”
Marketed to governments for use solely against terrorists and criminals, Pegasus has been abused by NSO customers to spy on human rights activists, journalists, and politicians from Saudi Arabia to Mexico.