{"code":"26559","sect":"El Salvador","sect_slug":"el-salvador","hits":"503","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202211\/el_salvador\/26559","link_edit":"","name":"15 Members of El Faro Sue NSO in US Federal Court for Pegasus Hacks","slug":"15-members-of-el-faro-sue-nso-in-us-federal-court-for-pegasus-hacks","info":"On behalf of 15 members of El Faro, lawyers from the Knight First Amendment Institute sued the Israeli surveillance company NSO for allegedly selling a program that hacked the phones of 22 members of El Faro between June 2020 and November 2021. The lawsuit asks the court to order NSO Group to disclose the name of its client in El Salvador. This is the first time that journalists targeted by NSO spyware, including a U.S. national, file suit in the U.S.","mtag":"Impunidad","noun":{"html":"\u003Cspan class='tint-text--dark' data_href='\/user\/profile\/jgavarrete'\u003E Julia Gavarrete\u003C\/span\u003E","data":{"julia-gavarrete":{"sort":"jgavarrete","slug":"julia-gavarrete","path":"julia_gavarrete","name":"Julia Gavarrete","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"503","pict":{"cms-image-000038326-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"38326","name":"cms-image-000038326.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000038326.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000038326.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000038326-jpg","text":"","capt":""}},"pict_main__sort":38326,"date":{"live":"2022\/11\/30"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2022","data_post_dateLive_MM":"11","data_post_dateLive_DD":"30","text":"\u003Cp\u003E\u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202211\/el_salvador\/26557\/Quince-miembros-de-El-Faro-demandan-a-NSO-Group-en-Estados-Unidos-por-espionaje.htm\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003ELeer en espa\u00f1ol\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-9a3786e3-7fff-662d-ef39-c35f2c5a916a\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn Wednesday, 15 members of El Faro \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/knightcolumbia.org\/content\/el-faro-journalists-knight-institute-sue-nso-group-over-spyware\"\u003Efiled suit\u003C\/a\u003E against the Israel-based surveillance company NSO Group in U.S. federal court for allegedly designing and deploying the spyware Pegasus to infiltrate the phones of 22 members of the news organization. The plaintiffs, \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/knightcolumbia.org\/documents\/c3wrjy7rzp\"\u003E13 journalists and two other staff members\u003C\/a\u003E, based their case on a series of violations of the U.S. Computer Fraud Abuse Act \u2014which prohibits accessing computers without authorization\u2014 and the California state-level equivalent Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act. The case was filed by the New York City-based Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cNSO Group violated that law when it hacked into the plaintiffs\u2019 phones,\u201d said Carrie DeCell, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, adding that the case is emblematic of how the spyware has been used to surveil, intimidate, and persecute journalists. \u201cTheir devices were accessed remotely and surreptitiously, their communications and activities monitored, and their personal data accessed and stolen.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EA joint investigation released in January by Citizen Lab and Access Now found that between June 2020 and November 2021 the communications of\u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202201\/el_salvador\/25936\/22-Members-of-El-Faro-Bugged-with-Spyware-Pegasus.htm\"\u003E 22 members of El Faro were targeted with Pegasus\u003C\/a\u003E, an invasive spyware able to extract anything stored on a telephone device: images, videos, text messages as well as geolocation or passwords. The plaintiffs are asking that the federal court require NSO Group to identify, return, and delete all information obtained through these attacks, prohibit the firm from using Pegasus on the plaintiffs, and order them to reveal their client behind the spying in El Salvador.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAmong the plaintiffs are U.S. American journalist Roman Gressier, Washington correspondent and Spanish national Jos\u00e9 Luis Sanz, and Salvadoran journalist Nelson Rauda, who currently resides in the United States and collaborates with El Faro English.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThis is the first time that journalists targeted by Pegasus file suit against NSO in U.S. court. El Faro director Carlos Dada, whose phone was bugged with the spyware for at least 167 days, describes the suit as \u201can effort to defend our rights.\u201d He added, \u201cUnfortunately, we have had to seek out the court of another country, because there is no possibility for us to obtain justice in El Salvador or even government information on how and which government agency spied on us and has in its power the contents of our cell phones.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe suit was filed in the Northern District of California, where the tech giant Apple sued NSO in November 2021 for \u201ccreat[ing] sophisticated, state-sponsored surveillance technology\u201d that infected devices produced by the company, and asked the court to ban them from using Apple software, services, or devices to conduct espionage.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EImpunity for \u201cobsessive\u201d spying\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn January, an analysis conducted by Access Now and the University of Toronto\u2019s Citizen Lab, organizations who defend digital rights, \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/citizenlab.ca\/2022\/01\/project-torogoz-extensive-hacking-media-civil-society-el-salvador-pegasus-spyware\/\"\u003Econcluded\u003C\/a\u003E that at least 35 people were infected with Pegasus in El Salvador. The researchers also located an operator of the spyware in the country.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe organizations asserted that the case of El Faro is unprecedented. \u201cThis is one of the most shocking and obsessive cases of targeting that we have investigated,\u201d Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton, who led the investigation, said at the time.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe communications of editors, reporters, and administrative staff were compromised by almost constant and remotely generated infections without the knowledge of those targeted or any need for them to click on a fraudulent link. This intrusion method is known as \u201cFORCEDENTRY,\u201d an exploit mentioned in the plaintiffs\u2019 complaint. \u201cTheir cell phones were hacked remotely and covertly,\u201d said DeCell.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ECitizen Lab and Access Now\u2019s exhaustive analysis offered precise information on the days and duration of the Pegasus attacks. In the most extreme case, that of journalist Carlos Mart\u00ednez, the infections of his phone lasted at least 269 days. Others like that of journalist Gabriel Labrador, exceeded 100 days.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe researchers found a close correlation, as also noted in the complaint, between the days that each journalist was targeted and their investigative work, like reporting into the Bukele administration\u2019s\u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202108\/el_salvador\/25670\/Criminal-Investigation-Found-the-Bukele-Administration-Hid-Evidence-of-Negotiations-with-Gangs.htm\"\u003E covert gang negotiations\u003C\/a\u003E or the\u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202107\/el_salvador\/25611\/Bukele-Plans-to-Launch-a-National-Cryptocurrency-This-Year.htm\"\u003E implementation of bitcoin\u003C\/a\u003E. \u201cMany of the attacks occurred while they were communicating with confidential sources, including U.S. Embassy officials, and while they were informing the public on abuses committed by the Salvadoran government,\u201d said DeCell, adding that the case of EL Faro could be considered \u201cone of the most deliberate, sustained, and highly-sophisticated spyware attacks to date.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ENSO argues that it only sells Pegasus to governments and their respective security agencies, though the Salvadoran government has\u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.reuters.com\/technology\/salvadoran-journalists-phones-hacked-with-spyware-report-finds-2022-01-13\/\"\u003E denied having purchased a license\u003C\/a\u003E to operate the product. In February, one month after the revelations, the Salvadoran President\u2019s Office sponsored legal reforms to create \u201cundercover digital agents\u201d who would become a sort of digital patrol using \u201cinformation technology programs\u201d to obtain information for use in criminal investigations. Civil society organizations denounced the bill as an effort to \u201clegalize spyware.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe suit against NSO, according to the director of El Faro, is the next step in denouncing the espionage against journalists given the non-response from the Salvadoran government. \u201cNSO is the company responsible for this spying against journalists and human rights defenders around the world and we want them to take responsibility for it, transparently informing the public when their programs have been wrongfully used. It puts us at risk and violates citizens\u2019 right to be informed,\u201d said Dada.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EDeCell says that another objective of the lawsuit is to change the behavior of companies in the spyware industry. \u201cThe producers of spyware who participate in the persecution of journalists should not be allowed to operate with impunity,\u201d she asserted, echoing the position of prominent rights groups like\u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.amnesty.org\/en\/latest\/news\/2022\/07\/the-pegasus-project-one-year-on-spyware-crisis-continues-after-failure-to-clamp-down-on-surveillance-industry\/\"\u003E Amnesty International\u003C\/a\u003E and challenging the assertion of an industry that, under the argument of \u201ccombating crime,\u201d generates revenue from human rights violations and attacks and persecution of dissident voices and journalists.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EDada says that the suit communicates to companies like NSO that attacks against press freedom have consequences. \u201cI\u2019d like to believe that if more cases are opened in other parts of the world against these firms they would think twice before permitting their products to be used [to attack journalists].\u201d He added, \u201cAs journalists and as private citizens,\u00a0 we will continue striving to defend our rights that have been violated by the most invasive spying system in the world.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E"}