New Delhi: According to Amnesty International, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is on a list of heads of state who were likely targeted for hacking by clients of the notorious Israeli spyware firm NSO Group.
“The unprecedented revelation… Should send shivers down the spines of world leaders,” Amnesty International’s secretary general, Agnes Callamard, said in a statement on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Among the potential targets identified on a list of 50,000 phone numbers leaked to Amnesty International and the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories are French President Emmanuel Macron, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Iraq President Barham.
Apart from Imran Khan, two other current prime ministers are on the list: Egypt’s Mustafa Madbouly and Morocco’s Saad Eddine El Othmani, according to The Washington Post.
However, none of the heads of state would allow their phones to be forensically tested to determine whether they were infected with NSO’s military-grade Pegasus spyware.
In addition, Amnesty International released a forensic analysis of the alleged targeting, which revealed that Amazon Web Services was hosting NSO infrastructure. Amazon responded by shutting down NSO accounts “confirmed to be supporting the reported hacking activity.”
Amnesty International identified DigitalOcean as another US company hosting NSO servers. When contacted by The Associated Press, DigitalOcean did not confirm or deny that it had identified or disconnected such servers.
These revelations broaden the scope of alleged abuses in which the NSO Group has been implicated since 2016. Individuals, including more than 600 politicians and government officials, as well as 189 journalists, have been linked to the list’s more than 1,000 numbers from 50 countries.
Mexico and the Middle East accounted for the lion’s share, with Saudi Arabia reportedly among NSO clients.
However, the source of the leak and how it was verified have not been revealed. While the presence of a phone number in the data does not imply that an attempt to hack a device was made, the consortium stated that it was confident the data indicated potential targets of NSO’s government clients.