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Monday, October 3, 2022

Pegasus Was Used Against Mexican Journalists, Activist After President Said ‘No More Abuse’

"Mica" for BorderlandBeat
Pegasus Was Used Against Mexican Journalists, Activists After President Said ‘No More Abuse’
Findings verified by the cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab confirmed that the phones of three individuals were infected with the Israeli spyware during Andres Manuel López Obrador's term.

Despite Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador claiming government agencies did not abuse spyware after he came to power, the mobile phones of at least two Mexican journalists and a human rights activist were infected with the powerful Pegasus spyware between 2019 and 2021, a new investigation has found.

The Mexican digital rights organization Red en los Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D) documented infections with Pegasus spyware against the three individuals, which occurred after President López Obrador gave assurances that there would be no more abuses of the spyware. The findings were verified and confirmed by the cyber-security watchdog, the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab. Obrador came to power in 2018.

“The findings of this investigation show that the federal government has reneged on its commitment to end illegal espionage in Mexico, in addition to refuting the theses on which the current administration has relied to deepen militarisation in the country,” said R3D’s report.

The flagship product of the Israeli firm NSO Group, Pegasus is used to target phones selected by clients by sending customised text messages with a link. If the targeted phone user clicks on the link, the NSO client can access all the information on the device, from call records to chats, photos and emails. The phone’s microphone and camera can also be remotely switched on for eavesdropping. The spyware can also be installed through a zero-click exploit, which does not require the target to click on a link.

Though NSO claims that the spyware is sold to “vetted governments” to target criminal and terror gangs, widespread global abuse has been documented.

Mexico was the first country to buy Pegasus and has been described as a laboratory where the application was developed further. Mexico’s defence ministry had been the first client for Pegasus spyware, but other government agencies followed suit.

In 2017, Citizen Lab, R3D, SocialTic and Article19 released eight reports on the widespread abuse of Pegasus in Mexico, targeting civil society, journalists, lawyers, anti-corruption groups, politicians and even intentional investigators.

After President López Obrador took over in 2018, his government announced that the domestic intelligence agency, Cisen, extensively used Pegasus from 2014-17, coinciding with the term of his predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

“We have not purchased systems for interceptions, among other things because of the corruption that was involved in the purchase of all of this equipment at very elevated prices, to foreign companies, spy systems, a lot of money was spent, there is still unused equipment purchased in the previous government. We don’t do that. And we don’t do it because it is a matter of principle,” López Obrador assured in 2019, as per a translation provided by Citizen Lab.

As part of the 2021 Pegasus Project, it was found that at least 50 individuals connected to López Obrador were confirmed to be in the leaked NSO data of potential targets between 2016 and 2017.

Perusing the leaked records, Pegasus Project journalists also detected phone numbers of at least 45 former and current governors of Mexico’s 32 states. This included 29 who were sitting governors in 2016 and 2017.

The Wire had been part of the Pegasus Project, which was steered by France-based media non-profit organization Forbidden Stories with technical support from human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

Among the leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers of potential Pegasus targets, Mexico had the largest cluster of more than 15,000 phone numbers.

Following the revelations of the Pegasus Project, President Lopez Obrador again gave assurances that his government does not use Pegasus spyware. “This does not happen. The government does not spy on anyone,” he said on July 20, 2021.

But, as the latest report reveals, the public assurances did not seem to have been implemented.

“The latest findings by R3D indicate that Pegasus abuses continued in Mexico. Their report also highlights evidence of recent contracts between Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA), and companies linked to prior sales of Pegasus to the Mexican government,” said the Citizen Lab report.

Who were the targets?

For over 20 years, as a human rights activist, Raymundo Ramos Vázquez has highlighted human rights abuses by the armed forces in the state of Tamaulipas. His phone was infected with Pegasus three times between August and September 2020 – just after he publicly denounced the video showing the extrajudicial killing of three civilians by the Mexican army in Nuevo Laredo.

R3D noted that during the timeframe of the targeting, Ramos was meeting with representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), officials from Mexico’s Navy and the Secretary of Defence, and members of the media.

Ricardo Raphael, a prominent journalist, had been first targeted in 2016 and then in 2017 when the media was extensively investigating the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa.

During the current regime, R3D found that his phone was repeatedly infected in October and November 2019 when he was on a publicity tour for his book, Hijo de la Guerra, which fictionalizes the saga of the Los Zetas Cartel and its origins in the Mexican Army.

His phone was again infected with Pegasus in 2020 after he wrote several articles on extrajudicial detentions and official impunity, including in the Washington Post.

He had also accused Mexico’s attorney general of grave misconduct in investigating the 2014 student disappearances. His claim was cited by another prominent news outlet, Aristegui Noticias. A day later, his phone was targeted.

In July 2022, Raphael claimed that snippets of a private communication he had in 2019 were taken out of context and shared with his contacts in an apparent effort to discredit him.

Another journalist of Animal Político, a digital media outlet covering issues related to human rights, corruption and accountability, was also targeted on the day of publishing a report on human rights violations by Mexican armed forces.

The journalist, whose identity has been concealed due to security reasons, was attacked with Pegasus on June 10 2021, as per the forensic analysis by Citizen Lab.

Source: The Wire


  1. Typical of almost all govt's, but the U.S. is one of the worst & pissed that mr. snowden uncovered them. Snowden is a hero but we've forced him to live in a commie country. Why so much American uproar over a simple WNBA player rightfully detained in another country and general apathy over a man who selflessly sacrificed all for the American people? Pathetic.

    1. Snowden ran into the arms of a hostile country like a good impressionable boy. Putin despises him, since he HATES traitors down to the marrow, but tolerates him for political reasons. Snowden is the modern Benedict Arnold.

    2. US are brained washed to the core, they are made of immigrants but hate immigration 😂
      Everybody is nice and friendly in other countries but ones they live in the US a few years they turn hateful. That's weird, can it be the racism or what can it be I wonder..??????

    3. Snowden chose to go to Russia,
      Political Prisoners may have done a little "crime", worst shit was believing on Russia, like Grimes.

    4. 3:40 what you're talking about is called the "drawbridge mentality"

  2. "Three individuals" infected, what a disaster... :(

  3. If you use Apple products you are fair game lmao.

    1. CISEN used to be the DFS, changes names everytime they get caught with their fuck-ups.
      Their insiders would not scrap PEGASSUS, and some people like Layda Sansores must be very happy she got alito moreno by his chicken wings like a Mayan Jaguar

    2. Ever asked yourself why gov never want to open an android? Its not because of no expensive androids are out there ;)

    3. What would be a good phone?

  4. It's worth reading the espanol Washington Post article by this guy; mentioned above-

  5. Pegasus has been used 3 more times in Mexico during his presidency…. His college-educated son and his college-educated daughter-in-law live a lavish middle class life in a $300K+ house in Houston… One thing I’ve learned is that these types of cheap shots are typically a sign of a leader who threatens the global power structures. I trust this president 184877138941 times more than any of his predecessors.

    1. 9:53
      It was a million dollar mansion he bought, his unemployed son along, with a $70,000 Mercedes , in Harris County, Texas.
      Ask yourself how was Amlo able to afford it?

    2. 8:35
      -It was a house that value was around average value on that area, not a mansion
      -they had proof or rent.
      -hes a lawyer working on private practice, whos also a permanent resident.

      Can you please provide something to check out about the Mercedes?

      Anyone with n average and a bachelors salary in the US can afford a Mercedes, specially with lease programs. Ignoring the fact that his wife have a good job too.

      Keep Whining please!

    3. 8:35 that's true I read about it, his Millions dollar mansion, can be seen on Zillow, no fuken way is it worth $300,00
      Yes I also read at the same time, that papa ALMO got him a SUV Mercedes, car it was paid in full, no monthly payments, only the monthly insurance payment. Papa gets good bribes.

    4. 1:50 Passing an average value rent house as a "MANSION", and theres nothing to show about the Mercedes, update you facts boy. Dont spread fake news, make you look dumb.

    5. @2.19
      Can't you read the Big Home is bought, purchased.
      No where does it say, Renting.
      You got to be a paid Elmo Internet influencer.

    6. I know Almo is dirty and hides it with the Bernie Sanders help the poor gimmick. Is Almo more corrupt than other past Presidents or on.the same level?

    7. The bottom line is that the vehicle and home are both within a reasonable range of what two middle-aged, college-educated people can afford. This is a clear hit piece and another example of how easy it is for the powerful to fool the dimly witted.

    8. 2:53 based on what?, you firmly believe?, whats your source?, your intuition?

    9. 2:51 Well... they showed proof of rent of average house for their profile, two professionals, not construction workers. Try harder next time.

    10. 10:32 stop being a dork.

    11. 2:48 Had no idea pointing out fake news was being a dork.

  6. That explains why Mexican journalists been killed in record numbers each year.
    Mexico has been #1 for most killed journalist for a few years straight.
    This year they are going for the record on mist killed..
    AMLO- hugs for thugs
    Abrazos no balazos

    1. Yes, theres a conspiracy and amlo kills everyone! hahahaha

  7. 10:19 AMLO would love for some "journalists" to die, but he supports their freedom of expreshun, also supports the right to answer false accusations, most journalists killed in México as a result of their local journalism many times sold for chayote

    1. Sir dreams of Almo cada noche.

    2. Sir is left wing communist. Loves Obrador for his age.

  8. I mean every government spies and collects the data of their citizens. No doubt that it happened, they all do it

  9. To all the journalists out there your best to be using graphene os and use a trust worthy VPN service

  10. I hope Sols omputer is not curupted with that program.

    1. Use a live OS if your ever concerned. Make sure to switch USB installs regularly and use a trustworthy computer during installs for obvious reasons.

    2. Sol computer has ......
      Trojan Horses
      Zika virus

  11. AMlo is a lying piece of shit. no discussion. Bigger liar than Trump by far. some people believe his BS cause they dont know any better but we all know the truth about this snake


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