Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Researcher Hatice Cengiz, fiancée of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly had spyware "successfully installed" on her phone four days after his murder, according to analysis by Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Photo by Arif Hudaverdi Yaman/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Israeli cyber intelligence firm NSO Group's hacking software has been used to spy on heads of state, journalists, activists and lawyers across the world, per an investigation by 17 news organizations and nonprofits, published Sunday.

Why it matters: Authoritarian governments and others have used this spyware "to facilitate human rights violations around the world on a massive scale," with 50,000 phone numbers of targets leaked — including the family of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, alleges rights group Amnesty International, which helped research the report, which NSO called "false."

Driving the news: The investigation into NSO's Pegasus software spyware, known as the Pegasus Project, was conducted by a consortium including WashPost, the Guardian and 15 other news outlets, alongside Amnesty and the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories.

  • The list of numbers doesn't necessarily mean the phones were hacked, but the consortium determined they were potential surveillance targets. Reporters identified "more than 1,000 people spanning more than 50 countries through research and interviews on four continents," WashPost reports.
  • Among the targets were "at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, and more than 600 politicians and government officials," along with several heads of state, prime ministers and Arab royal family members, per WashPost.

Zoom in: Journalists working for major news outlets were allegedly targeted — including the Financial Times, the "Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, France 24, Radio Free Europe, Mediapart, El País, Associated Press, Le Monde, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, the Economist, Reuters and Voice of America," the Guardian reports.

  • Researcher Hatice Cengiz, fiancée of Washington Post journalist Khashoggi, allegedly had the Pegasus spyware "successfully installed" on her phone four days after his 2018 murder at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, according to analysis by Amnesty International’s Security Lab.
  • The reports did not disclose the source of the leak nor how journalists verified the material.

Of note: NSO argues that Pegasus helps solve crimes, combats terrorism and brings criminals to justice.

  • The group announced in 2019 a broad range of human rights protections after being accused of selling its Pegasus spyware to authoritarian governments, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

What they're saying: NSO attorney Thomas Clare told WashPost the reports contained inaccuracies. Clare said the consortium had "apparently misinterpreted and mischaracterized crucial source data on which it relied."

  • "NSO Group has good reason to believe that this list of 'thousands of phone numbers' is not a list of numbers targeted by governments using Pegasus, but instead, may be part of a larger list of numbers that might have been used by NSO Group customers for other purposes," Clare said in a statement to WashPost.

What to watch: Amnesty said in a statement the Pegasus Project media partners would run more stories over the next week "exposing details of how world leaders, politicians, human rights activists, and journalists have been selected as potential targets of this spyware."

Go deeper

Jul 18, 2021 - World

Egypt releases journalists, activists after U.S. expresses human rights worries

Egyptian activist and journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah speaks on the phone at her home after being released from prison on July 18. Photo: Mohamed El Raai/picture alliance via Getty Images

Egyptian authorities released three activists and three journalists on Sunday who have been kept in pre-trial detention for months, in some cases years, without trial, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: The authorities' release of the prisoners comes days after the U.S. expressed concern regarding human rights abuses in Egypt.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
56 mins ago - Energy & Environment

China vows end to building coal-fired power plants abroad

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Mary Altaffer - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday that his country "will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad" and plans to boost support for clean energy in developing nations.

Why it matters: The pledge, if maintained, would mark a breakthrough in efforts to transition global power away from the most carbon-emitting fuel.

House Democrats strip Iron Dome money from government funding bill

Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Democrats on Tuesday stripped $1 billion for Israel's Iron Dome defense system from its short-term government funding bill after backlash from progressives, people familiar with the decision tell Axios.

Why it matters: There has never a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress. While the funding will get a vote in its current defense bill, the clash underscores the deep divisions within the Democratic party over Israel.