KAMPALA, Uganda |SHIFTMEDIA| A number of Ugandan investigative journalists have reportedly been targeted by Pegasus, which belongs to an Israeli spyware firm, NSO Group.
The targeted investigative journalists include Canary Mugume of NBS Television, and Raymond Mujuni, of NTV Television among others.
The NSO’s Pegasus software, according to several reports, can infect both iPhones and Android devices, allowing operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones and cameras.
The NSO Group said in its report that it only supplies Pegasus to military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies from countries with good human-rights records to target terrorists and criminals, but several reports revealed that the software is being used against politicians, journalists and activists.
According to Canary Mugume, an investigative journalist and news anchor at NBS Television, Apple sent him an alert, that “State-sponsored attackers may be targeting his Phone.”
The alert, also seen by this reporter explained that Apple believes that Mugume is being targeted by state-sponsored attackers, who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated to his Apple ID.
NTV Television’s Raymond Mujuni also reportedly received a similar alert from Apple.
Asked if he expected this, Mugume told Nile Post that he has been observing suspicious activity on his phone lately.
Mugume said, “I keep receiving notifications of new messages on my telegram and Twitter but when I open the apps I see nothing, Experts say this is a sign of penetration.”
Mugume added that his “calls drop off abruptly” as well, which seems suspicious.
“I don’t know why I’m being tapped. I don’t know whether it has anything to do with my work. It doesn’t scare me, because I’m doing nothing wrong. It’s just wrong that the state taps information, invades my privacy illegally,” Mugume told Nile Post.
Mujuni said in a tweet that he had, “Taken steps to secure all gadgets but it is important to continue to insist that illegal surveillance is criminal.”
“We have been able to see the local number associated with sending phish text messages with links meant to corrupt our devices and trace it to its owner, a state agent. While government reserves right to intercept communications, it ought to do so through legal channels,” Mujuni maintained.
Other revelations revelations in the July 2021 edition of the global reporting investigations, the Pegasus Project, published by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) showed that Rwanda reportedly wiretapped conversations of top Ugandan officials, using Pegasus.
According to the BBC, US officials placed the NSO Group on a trade blacklist earlier this month, saying the software had “enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists”.
This week, Apple sued the same NSO Group and its parent company for allegedly targeting iPhone users with a hacking tool.
Apple’s move follows a lawsuit launched in 2019 by WhatsApp which is still working its way through the US court system.
In its initial court filing, WhatsApp said NSO Group “developed their malware in order to access messages and other communications after they were decrypted on target devices”.
Other tech firms, including Microsoft, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), Google-owner Alphabet and Cisco Systems have all previously criticised NSO.
SOURCE/NILEPOST & BBC