Pegasus: in Mexico, new victims of spy software despite promises of power

The phones of two journalists and an activist were hacked by the NSO spy software. The Mexican government is again suspected, despite the presidential promises of no longer using this software.

Le Monde

PEGASUS spy software continues, despite the promises of the authorities, to be used in Mexico against journalists and human rights defenders. It is with the help of the Citizen Lab from the University of Toronto , which refers in the detection and analysis of spy software.

Two journalists and an activist concerned

Three new victims have been identified. Among them is Raymundo Ramos Vazquez, whose phone was hacked at least three times in August and September 2020. This human rights defender has been working for years on the Mexican army abuses and these facts have occurred shortly After publicly mentioned the involvement of the army in the murder of three civilians. The Citizen Lab notes that at the period when his phone was infected, Mr. Vasquez was in regular contact with many associations and international organizations specializing in the defense of human rights.

The second newly identified victim is called Ricardo Raphael. This journalist was also hacked three times: in 2019 when he promoted his book on the Los Zetas cartel; And in 2020 after having publicly denounced the drifts and shortcomings of the authorities in their fight against cartels. At R3D, he explained that he had noted, in 2022, that extracts from his private conversations had been sent to some of his interlocutors, probably to discredit it.

A third victim, a journalist from the politico animal media, was found but his identity is kept secret “for security reasons”. His phone was infected on the day of the publication of an article on human rights violations by the Mexican army.

the suspected Mexican government

Given the identity of the victims, the nature of their activity but also the fact that this spy software is sold only for governments by its designer, the Israeli company NSO Group, the Mexican authorities make figure of main suspect in these attacks. The Citizen Lab notes however that “in some cases”, they are also of interest “for cartels”, suggesting a double diversion of the tool.

requested by Reuters , NSO Group declared that he could not pronounce on the case, for lack of data in his possession. The company explained that it could put an end to the contracts of its customers in case of misuse of its tool.

Mexico is the first country whose misuse of Pegasus was documented, as of 2017: telephones of journalists, lawyers, men and women politicians, activists and human rights defenders had been targeted. In 2021, the editors of the “Pegasus project”, of which Le Monde was a part, revealed that an important part of the entourage of the current Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, then at the head of the opposition, had been selected for a possible surveillance by spy software. Beyond this purely political targeting, whole sections of Mexican civil society had been in the viewfinder of Pegasus.

These new cases of infection by the NSO monitoring tool will not fail to relaunch controversy. Especially since, on several occasions after his election, in 2018, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stood out from his predecessor by claiming to give up Pegasus and illegal surveillance.

/Media reports.