Israeli firm's spyware targeted journalists: media

Spyware licensed to an Israeli company has been used to hack key smartphones around the world from journalists and rights activists to government officials including heads of state.

That's according to a new report by Paris-based nonprofit Forbidden Stories, an alliance of 17 media companies.

The report documents 37 hacks or attempts using spyware called Pegasus.

Including the phones of two women who were close to Jamal Khashoggi - according to the Washington Post, one of the media contributors.

Khashoggi was working as a columnist at the Post when he was murdered at a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

According to the Israeli company, NSO Group, the spyware is intended to help governments fight terrorism and crime.

It has blasted the report as full of "wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories".

Pegasus allows operators to extract messages, photos and emails from smartphones.

It can also record calls and secretly activate microphones.

The report did not detail who had attempted the hacks or why.

But it referenced a list of phone numbers provided to the media organizations.

Reporters identified more than 1,000 people on the list - including members of Arab royal families, business executives, activists and prime ministers.

Journalists from CNN, the New York Times and Reuters were also included.