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An NSO group building in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Pegasus software accessed the phones of at least 35 journalists and other citizens in El Salvador in a hack attack on news outlet El Faro and other targets in the country, per a new report.

Why it matters: Wednesday's report by cybersecurity watchdogs Citizen Lab and Access Now comes some two months after the U.S. government added NSO Group, the Israeli firm that produces Pegasus, to its black list of companies engaging in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.

Driving the news: The hacking took place July 2020 and November 2021, as the news outlets were "reporting on sensitive issues involving the administration" of El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, such as allegations that the government negotiated a "'pact' with the MS-13 gang for a reduction in violence and electoral support," according to the report. (The government denies this.)

  • Other targets included employees of the news outlets "GatoEncerrado, La Prensa Gráfica, Revista Digital Disruptiva, Diario El Mundo, El Diario de Hoy, and two independent journalists," per the report.
  • Pro-democracy and human rights groups were among three nongovernmental organizations also targeted, the report said.

For the record: NSO has denied reports its software has been used by governments around the world to spy on journalists, human rights activists and possibly world leaders.

  • It has said it's taken all possible steps to ensure its software wouldn't be used for anything other than fighting crime and terrorism.  

Go deeper

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

HRW criticizes Biden over "mixed signals" on human rights

Photo: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Human Rights Watch criticized President Biden and other leaders of democratic nations for sending "mixed signals" on human rights in its annual World Report published on Thursday, saying they "are not meeting the challenges before them."

Why it matters: Though Biden pledged to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote that weapon sales to repressive governments and public reticence on certain human rights violations place those promises in question.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.