The Pegasus Project

Credit: Svetlana Tiourina
Published: July 18, 2021

They never heard it. There was no beep, no sound at all. But in those silent seconds, a digital intruder entered their phones. Their private moments and their professional secrets became instantly accessible. Even their cameras could be activated to snap photos at the will of a faraway attacker.

The perpetrators were most likely their own governments. Their tool used to break in was Pegasus, a cutting-edge spyware product made by the Israeli company NSO Group.

Through Pegasus, corrupt and troubled regimes across the world can gain access to vast troves of personal information on just about anyone they want. The spyware, sold as a crime-fighting tool, is already known to have been used against journalists, activists, and political dissidents.

But NSO Group is so secretive, and its product is so stealthy, that it’s been nearly impossible to understand the scope of its use. So when a group of journalists gained access to a list of 50,000 phone numbers that had allegedly been picked as targets of the spyware, we sprang into action.

Working with new data from the journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and human rights group Amnesty International, OCCRP and 16 media partners around the world worked to uncover who might have fallen victim to Pegasus, and tell their stories.

The Big Picture

Israeli-Made Spyware Used to Monitor Journalists and Activists Worldwide

An international investigation found dozens of journalists and activists whose phones were infected with the spyware, which is only sold to governments.

18 July 2021 Read the article

About the Project

What does the data reveal about surveillance? Who was targeted? Were all these people really hacked?

18 July 2021 Read the article


Life in Azerbaijan’s Digital Autocracy: ‘They Want to be in Control of Everything’

For the first time, forensic evidence shows that powerful Israeli spyware from notorious cyber-surveillance company NSO Group, was used against Azerbaijani journalists. More than 200 names appeared on a leaked list of suspected targets.

18 July 2021 Read the article

Israeli Spy Tech Used Against Daughter of Man Who Inspired “Hotel Rwanda”

Pegasus software made by Israeli firm NSO Group was used to spy on the daughter of imprisoned dissident Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions during the 1994 genocide were dramatized in a 2004 film starring Don Cheadle.

19 July 2021 Read the article

World Leaders on Pegasus List Include France’s President Macron, Morocco’s King Mohammed, Kazakhstan’s President

While they were in office, 14 world leaders from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East appear to have been selected for targeting with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. Analysis suggests that, in several cases, the users of the hacking tool were their own governments.

20 July 2021 Read the article

Grieving Parents of Murdered Mexican Students on List of Suspected Targets of Military-Grade Israeli Spyware

When their children were killed or abducted, the parents of Ayotzinapa relentlessly petitioned their government for truth and justice. But even as they placed their hopes in the federal government, it may have targeted them for invasive surveillance.

21 July 2021 Read the article

Trust No One: Top Kazakh Oligarchs And Dozens of Government Officials May Have Been Spied On With Pegasus

Among the apparent targets of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was the biggest nemesis of “Leader of the Nation” Nursultan Nazarbayev — and people surrounding his son-in-law. Also on the list were dozens of loyal government officials.

23 July 2021 Read the article

Voices of the Hacked

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Additional Materials

Partner Stories

Where Netanyahu went, NSO followed: How Israel pushed cyberweapon Sales

Where Netanyahu went, NSO followed: How Israel pushed cyberweapon Sales

Haaretz - 20 July 2021

Here’s how Israel became the cyber industry’s patron and pushed spyware sales across the world.

    The political life of AMLO — and even his heart: Mexico’s president targeted by espionage

    The political life of AMLO — and even his heart: Mexico’s president targeted by espionage

    Aristegui Noticias - 19 July 2021

    Leaked information reveals that software from Israeli company NSO Group may have been used to hack phones belonging to Andres Manuel López Obrador’s family, his close associates, and even his cardiologist in the years before he assumed Mexico’s presidency.

      Pegasus: The new global weapon for silencing journalists

      Pegasus: The new global weapon for silencing journalists

      Forbidden Stories - 18 July 2021

      At least 180 journalists around the world have been selected as targets by clients of the cybersurveillance company NSO Group.

        Jamal Khashoggi’s wife targeted with spyware before his death

        Jamal Khashoggi’s wife targeted with spyware before his death

        The Washington Post - 18 July 2021

        NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used to secretly target the smartphones of the two women closest to the murdered Saudi columnist.


          Project Credits

          The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation into NSO Group, an Israeli “cyber intelligence” company that sells sophisticated spyware to governments around the world. It was coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a French nonprofit that focuses on telling the stories of journalists under threat. Amnesty International’s Security Lab provided technical support.

          Contributors from OCCRP

          Reporting and editing: Aubrey Belford, Kelly Bloss, Pavla Holcova, Nigar Isgandar, Khadija Ismayilova, Pete Jones, Olena LaFoy, Ilya Lozovsky, Miranda Patrucic, Paul Radu, Lilia Saul, Drew Sullivan, Julia Wallace, Jonny Wrate

          Fact-Checking: Olena LaFoy

          Illustration: Svetlana Tiourina

          Promotion: Charles Turner

          Web and Interactive: Kirk Jackson, Mark Nightingale, Aurélien Sesmat

          Partner Organizations:

          Aristegui Noticias (Mexico)
          Daraj (Lebanon)
          Die Zeit (Germany)
          Direkt36 (Hungary)
          The Guardian (U.K.)
          Haaretz (Israel)
          Knack (Belgium)
          Le Monde (France)
          Le Soir (France)
          PBS Frontline (U.S.)
          Proceso (Mexico)
          Radio France (France)
          Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany)
          The Washington Post (U.S.)
          The Wire (India)

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