SAN FRANCISO/WASHINGTON: Government-backed hackers tried to plant spyware made by NSO Group on the iPhone of an Indian journalist working for the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in August, the organisation’s co-founder said on Monday.
Analysis of the journalist’s phoneshowed an infiltration attempt on Aug. 23, OCCRP’s co-founder Drew Sullivan said.The journalist, Anand Mangnale, was among a series of people in India who received alerts fromApple last week warning them that they had been targeted by “state-sponsored” hackers trying to remotely access their iPhones.
Apple’s alerts did not identify the government behind the hacks or the spyware used.
Sullivan said an internal forensic investigation tied the intrusion effort against Mangnale’s phone to Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus hacking tool. The spyware allows hackers sweeping access to the targets’ smartphones, allowing them to record calls, intercept messages and transform the phones into portable listening devices.
Use of the tool on Mangnale’s phone was “unacceptable and outrageous,” Sullivan said.
“Whatever government is spying on the reporters, there’s no plausible explanation for that other than political gain,” Sullivan said.
OCCRP, a global network of investigative journalists, is known for its sweeping, document-based exposes of corruption and organised crime.
Mangnale, who reports on corporate fraud and government corruption, wasn’t immediately available for comment.
A company that did forensic work for OCCRP on Magnale’s device- an anti-phone-hacking firm called iVerify – said it found a pattern of suspicious crashes on it that matched previously known Pegasus intrusions.
iVerify cofounder Rocky Cole said he could say “with high confidence that this phone was attacked with Pegasus.”
The NSO Group said in an email that it had seen a pattern of organisations “going to the media without conclusive findings,” but didn’t address OCCRP’s specific allegation.

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