Researchers at Citizen Labs have reported that the phones of two journalists and a human rights activist from Mexico have been infected with the infamous Pegasus spyware between 2019 to 2021.
What’s worse is that the infection comes despite current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowing to stop using spyware on the opposition when he took office in 2018.
Pegasus caused quite the scandal because of its deployment under former President Enrique Pena Nieto’s term in 2017. The previous deployment was also detected by Citizen Labs and caused an uproar about the lengths government officials were willing to go to keep an eye on opposition parties, journalists, activists and other individuals not in favour of the government.
President Obrador claimed in 2021 that the government had no longer any ties with Pegasus with the country’s financial crimes chief at the time stating that there were no contracts with companies to procure the software.
Journalist Ricardo Raphael was targeted in October and November 2019 as well as December 2020. Another journalist working at Animal Politico who requested anonymity was targeted in 2021. Last but not least, activist Raymundo Ramos was targeted in August and September 2020.
Citizen Labs’ findings were published by the Mexican digital rights advocacy group R3D (Red en Los Defensa de Los Derechos Digitales), which also pointed out the fact that all three of the impacted individuals had reportedly documented human rights abuses by the Mexican armed forces.
NSO Group, the Israeli company that made the spyware stated that it cannot verify Citizen Labs’ findings without looking at in-depth data. The company also stated that it terminates contracts on evidence of any wrongdoing.
This alleged use of Pegasus despite Obrador’s government’s vow to not use the spyware has raised questions on whether or not the current Mexican president has stuck to his word at all and if not, just how many others have been targeted so far.