New York Times Journalist Reportedly Hacked by Pegasus Malware

The iPhone of New York Times journalist Ben Hubbard was repeatedly hacked with Israeli company NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware tool over a three-year period stretching between June 2018 to June 2021, resulting in infections twice in July 2020 and June 2021.

The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which publicized the findings on Sunday, said the “targeting took place while he was reporting on Saudi Arabia, and writing a book about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.” The research institute did not attribute the infiltrations to a specific government.

Hubbard, a reporter covering the Middle East, wrote on Sunday that a hacking attempt was first made on his phone in 2018, when he received a “suspicious” Arabic language text message inviting him to a protest outside the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC.

A similar message followed, and CitizenLab told Hubbard both messages originated from servers that had previously been used to target Saudi activists.

In a statement shared with Hubbard, the Israeli company denied its involvement in the hacks and dismissed the findings as “speculation,” while noting that the journalist was not “a target of Pegasus by any of NSO’s customers.”

“As a New York Times correspondent who covers the Middle East, I often speak to people who take great risks to share information that their authoritarian rulers want to keep secret,” Hubbard wrote in the NYT article.

He added that he takes “many precautions to protect the sources” to save them from “jail” and “death”. “But in a world where we store so much of our personal and professional lives in the devices we carry in our pockets, and where surveillance software continues to become ever more sophisticated, we are all increasingly vulnerable.”

Read the entire report over at New York Times.

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