Heads of state found on list of numbers examined by Pegasus Project – The Washington Post
Spies for centuries have trained their sights on those who shape destinies of nations: presidents, prime ministers, kings.And in the 21st century, most of them carry smartphones.Such is the underlying logic for some of the most tantalizing discoveries for an international investigation that in recent months scrutinized a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that included — according to forensic analyses of dozens of iPhones — at least some people targeted by Pegasus spyware licensed to governments worldwide.The list contained the numbers of politicians and government officials by the hundreds. But what of heads of state and governments, arguably the most coveted of targets?Fourteen. Or more specifically: three presidents, 10 prime ministers and a king.None of them offered their iPhones or Android devices to The Washington Post and 16 other news organizations that scrutinized the list of phone numbers. That means the forensic testing that might have revealed infection by NSO’s signature spyware, Pegasus, was not possible. Nor was it possible to determine whether any NSO client attempted to deliver Pegasus to the phones of these country leaders — much less whether any succeeded in turning these highly personal devices into pocket spies capable of tracking a national leader’s nearly every movement, communication and personal relationship. But here’s who’s on the list: Three sitting presidents, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Iraq’s Barham Salih and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa. Three current prime ministers, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Egypt’s Mostafa Madbouly and Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani.Seven former prime ministers, who according to time stamps on the list were placed there while they were still in office: Yemen’s Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, Uganda’s Ruhakana Rugunda, France’s Édouard Philippe, Kazakhstan’s Bakitzhan Sagintayev, Algeria’s Noureddine Bedoui and Belgium’s Charles Michel.And one king: Morocco’s Mohammed VI.The Post and its partner news organizations in 10 countries confirmed the ownership of these numbers and others cited in this article through public records, journalists’ contact books and queries to government officials or other close associates of the potential targets — though in some cases it was not possible to determine whether the phone numbers were active ones or former ones. The Post confirmed five of the numbers itself. The rest were confirmed by its partners.Calls to almost all of the phone numbers on Monday and Tuesday yielded canceled calls or changed numbers. A handful of people picked up the line. Others responded to text messages.A French journalism nonprofit, Forbidden Stories, and the human rights group Amnesty International had access to the list of more than 50,000 numbers. They shared the list with The Post and the other news organizations.The purpose of the list is unknown, and NSO disputes that it was a list of surveillance targets. “The data has many legitimate and entirely proper uses having nothing to do with surveillance or with NSO,” a Virginia attorney representing the company, Tom Clare, wrote to Forbidden Stories. Post Reports: The spyware secretly hacking smartphones But forensic examination by Amnesty’s Security Lab of 67 smartphones affiliated with numbers on the list found 37 that had either been successfully penetrated by Pegasus or showed signs of attempted penetration. The analyses by Amnesty also found that many of the phones showed signs of infection or attempted infection minutes or even seconds after time stamps that appeared for their numbers on the list.NSO — just one of several major players in this market — says it has 60 government agency clients in 40 countries. In every case, the company says, the targets are supposed to be terrorists and criminals, such as pedophiles, drug lords and human traffickers. The company says it specifically prohibits targeting law-abiding citizens, including government officials carrying out their ordinary business. NSO chief executive Shalev Hulio said his company has policies to guard against abuse in a phone interview with The Post on Sunday, after an initial set of stories about the company appeared in news reports worldwide, under the heading of the Pegasus Project.“Every allegation about misuse of the system is concerning me. It violates the trust that we give customers,” Hulio said. “I believe that we need to check every allegation. And if we check every allegation, we might find that some of it is true. And if we find that it is true, we will take strong action.”However common spying on national leaders may be in general, public revelations about it often spark controversy. When former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the United States had tapped into a phone used by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it caused months of uproar in that country and strained otherwise close relations between the two nations.In response to detailed questions from the investigative consortium, NSO said it monitors how its spyware is used and cancels access to the system for any client that misuses it. But it also says its clients, not the company itself, are responsible for its use.“NSO Group will continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action based on the results of these investigations,” the statement said. “This includes shutting down of a customers’ system, something NSO has proven its ability and willingness to do, due to confirmed misuse, done it multiple times in the past, and will not hesitate to do again if a situation warrants.”In a separate letter Tuesday, it also said “we can confirm that at least three names in your inquiry Emmanuel Macron, King Mohammed VI, and [World Health Organization Director General] Tedros Ghebreyesus — are not, and never have been, targets or selected as targets of NSO Group customers.”“All of the French and Belgian government officials or diplomats mentioned in the list, are not and never have been, Pegasus targets,” the company added in a subsequent letter.“The leaked list of 50,000 numbers is not a list of numbers selected for surveillance using Pegasus,” a lawyer for NSO, Thomas Clare, wrote to a Pegasus Project partner on Tuesday. “It is a list of numbers that anyone can search on an open-source system for reasons other than conducting surveillance using Pegasus. The fact that a number appears on that list is in no way indicative of whether that number was selected for surveillance using Pegasus.”A person familiar with NSO operations who has spoken earlier on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters told The Post that among clients the company had suspended in recent years were agencies in Mexico. The person declined to detail which agencies had been suspended.But reports of Pegasus abuse have been rampant in Mexico, and more than 15,000 Mexican phone numbers are on the list, including that of former president Felipe Calderón. The investigation found he had been added to the list after his term ended in 2012.Burundi’s prime minister, Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, was added to the list in 2018, before he took office, the records show. So were the numbers of Kazakhstan’s future president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and its future prime minister, Askar Mamin.Key figures in major international organizations were not exempt from inclusion on the list. The list contained numbers for several United Nations ambassadors and other diplomats. It also contained a phone number for a former staffer for the WHO’s Tedros.Overall, the list contained phone numbers for more than 600 government officials and politicians from 34 countries. In addition to the countries where top leaders’ phone numbers appeared were numbers for officials in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bhutan, China, Congo, Egypt, Hungary, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Togo, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.According to NSO marketing materials and security researchers, Pegasus is designed to collect files, photos, call logs, location records, communications and other private data from smartphones, and can activate cameras and microphones as well for real-time surveillance at key moments. Often these attacks can happen without the targets getting any kind of alert or taking any action. Pegasus can just slip in — to both iPhones and Android devices — and take over smartphones in what the surveillance industry calls “zero-click” attacks.A review of the list showed that some of the leaders’ phones were entered more than once, as were phone numbers for their friends, relatives and aides. Phone numbers for associates of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador were added to the list during the run-up to the 2018 election, which he ultimately won, unseating the ruling party. Among those on the list were smartphones belonging to his wife, sons, aides, dozens of his political allies, and even his personal driver and cardiologist. There was no indication that López Obrador’s phone was on the list; aides say he used it sparingly.Which NSO client might have added the numbers could not be learned definitively from the records. But the numbers for Calderón and the many associates of López Obrador were among a portion of the records from 2016 and 2017 dominated by Mexican targets. Also listed were dozens of sitting governors, federal lawmakers and other politicians.“Now we are learning that they also spied on my wife, my sons, even my doctor, a cardiologist,” López Obrador told reporters on Tuesday. “Apart from the issue of this spying, imagine how much cost! How much money went for this spying?”Numbers belonging to Michel, Macron and dozens of French officials appeared amid a group of more than 10,000 numbers dominated by Moroccan targets and those in neighboring Algeria, a Morocco rival. The numbers for Mohammed VI and the Tedros staffer also were found in that group. So was the number of Romano Prodi, a former Italian prime minister.“We were aware of the threats and measures were taken to limit the risks,” Michel told a reporter for Belgium’s Le Soir, a partner in the Pegasus Project. Michel stepped down as Belgian prime minister in 2019 to become the president of the European Council, one of the top jobs in the European Union.Prodi picked up Tuesday at the phone number that was on the list, but he declined to comment.Pakistan’s Khan appeared among a group dominated by numbers in India. Iraq’s Salih and Lebanon’s Hariri were grouped among numbers dominated by the United Arab Emirates and a separate grouping dominated by Saudi numbers.South Africa’s Ramaphosa, Uganda’s Rugunda and Burundi’s Bunyoni were among a group dominated by Rwandan phone numbers.Rwanda, Morocco and India have all issued official statements denying involvement in spying on journalists and politicians.Rwanda’s minister of foreign affairs, Vincent Biruta, said his country “does not possess this technical capability in any form.” In a statement, Morocco expressed “great astonishment” at the publication of “erroneous allegations … that Morocco has infiltrated the telephones of several national and foreign public figures and officials of international organizations.” The statement added, “Morocco is a State governed by the rule of law, which guarantees the secrecy of personal communications by the force of the Constitution.”In India, the home minister called suggestions it has spied on journalists and politicians the work of “disrupters,” which he defined as “global organizations which do not like India to progress.” In a separate statement, the government said, “The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever.”Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates did not respond to requests for comment.Macron’s phone number was added to the list as he was about to embark on a tour of Africa, with stops in Kenya and Ethiopia. Added about the same time were the phones of 14 French ministers and Belgium’s Michel.“If the facts are true, they are clearly very serious,” the Elysée said in a statement. “All light will be shed on these press revelations.”At the time, Morocco’s neighbor Algeria was in turmoil. Its longtime authoritarian ruler, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, had just announced he did not plan to run for reelection. Algeria fought a bloody war of independence from France in the 1950s, and many French citizens are of Algerian descent; the two countries retain strong ties and intelligence relationships.African Union nations were also ratifying a major free-trade agreement at the time. Trade and other international negotiations historically have been major targets for government intelligence-gathering as all sides seek insight into the thinking of their negotiating partners.Senior French government officials typically have access to secure devices for official communications, but French political insiders say some business also gets transacted on less-secure iPhones and Android devices.In addition to his personal iPhone, Macron uses two special highly secure cellphones for more sensitive conversations, aides say. His personal iPhone is the least secure of the devices he regularly uses, and he routinely shared its number with journalists, including a Post reporter, and other associates before he was elected to high office. The number for one of his personal cellphones was also published online in 2017 after someone stole the phone of a journalist who had Macron’s contact details.But officials familiar with his habits say he does not usually use any of the phones for discussions of classified information, for fear of being spied on. For that he sticks to encrypted landlines and other tools, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.Mexico’s Calderón told The Post that such intrusions were “an unjustifiable violation of the most elemental rights of liberty and privacy, as well as others that constitute elemental guarantees of human dignity.”He added he wasn’t surprised his phone number was on the list. “It’s not the first time, and I fear it won’t be the last, that I suffer from espionage,” he said. “On another occasion, the so-called WikiLeaks revealed that I had been the object of surveillance by the United States.” Timberg and Harwell reported from Washington. Birnbaum reported from Brussels. Sabbagh is a reporter for the Guardian. Reed Albergotti in San Francisco; Karen DeYoung, John Hudson and Dana Priest in Washington; Niha Masih and Joanna Slater in New Delhi; Mary Beth Sheridan in Mexico City; Sarah Dadouch in Beirut; Sam Sole of the investigative nonprofit amaBhungane in South Africa; Damien Leloup and Martin Untersinger of Le Monde; Michael Safi and David Pegg of the Guardian; Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier of Süddeutsche Zeitung; Kristof Clerix of Knack; Joël Matriche of Le Soir; Hala Nasreddine, Alia Ibrahim and Hazem Amine of Daraj; Miranda Patrucic, Vyacheslav Abramov and Peter Jones of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project; Holger Stark of Die Zeit; Jacques Monin of Radio France; and Sandrine Rigaud of Forbidden Stories contributed to this report. The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organizations coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Read more about this project.
A comprehensive guide to investing in stocks for beginners
You can start investing in stocks through a brokerage account or by using a robo-advisor. But you should establish goals, review your financial situation, and determine your risk tolerance first. Rebalancing your portfolio periodically will help you keep your investments in good shape. Insider Finance: Get the scoop on deals & personalities dominating Wall Street. Loading Something is loading.
When you invest in stocks , you’re purchasing a share of a company. They’re basically a slice of ownership in a company that can yield returns if it’s successful. There are various ways to invest and leverage your money. But there’s a lot to know before you get started investing in stocks .
Step 1: Figure out your goals It’s important to know what your fundamental goals are and why you want to start investing in the first place. Knowing this will help you to set clear goals to work toward. This is a crucial first step to take when you’re looking to create an investing strategy later on.
If you’re unsure of your goals, first review your financial situation, such as how much debt you have, your after-tax income, and expected retirement goal date. Knowing when you plan to retire can let you know your overall time horizon — or how much time you plan to hold onto your investments to reach your financial goal.
Based on that information, you can start figuring out your investing goals. Do you want to invest for the short or long term? Are you saving for a down payment on a house? Or are you trying to build your nest egg for retirement? All of these situations will affect how much — and how aggressively — to invest.
Finally, investing, like life, is inherently risky And you can lose money as easily as you can earn it. For your financial and mental wellbeing, you want to consider your appetite for risk. This is typically referred to as “risk tolerance” or how much risk you can reasonably take on given your financial situation and feelings about risk.
Quick Tip: You can take this investment risk tolerance quiz created by Rutgers to see where you stand and help inform your asset allocation.
Step 2: Determine your budget Once you’ve got some solid goals set, it’s time to review your budget. Here are some things to consider:
Your current after-tax income. Many people look at their pre-tax income, but you want to know how much money you’re working with after taxes which can help you create a realistic budget. Your expenses. How much are your monthly expenses? How much do you have leftover each month? Is it possible to reduce or cut some expenses? Overall debt. How much debt do you currently have? List out your monthly payments and compare that against what you’re making. Net worth. Your net worth is your total assets minus your liabilities. This number can give you an idea of where you’re at financially and will allow you to get a “big-picture” snapshot of your financial health. Financial goals. As we mentioned before, knowing your goals is important as it gives your money a purpose. Risk tolerance. How much risk do you feel comfortable taking on? Calculating this will give you a clearer idea of what you can afford to lose. Time horizon . How much time do you have before you want to reach your investing goals? This is key to mapping out your finances to ensure you’re keeping pace with when and how to invest without disrupting your budget or other goals not related to trading securities. All of these are key ingredients that can help you determine your budget.
One last thing to consider: when you expect to retire. For example, if you have 30 years to save for retirement, you can use a retirement calculator to assess how much you might need and how much you should save each month. When setting a budget, make sure you can afford it and that it is helping you reach your goals.
Step 3: Get acquainted with various stocks and funds Now it’s time to start doing research on what to invest in. There are different ways to invest in the stock market and there’s a lot to know so doing your research is well worth your time.
Stocks are a good option to consider if you want to invest in specific companies. Just keep in mind that you should look into the company itself and how it’s performing over time:
Stocks — A stock is a security that gives stockholders the opportunity to buy a fractional share of ownership in a particular company. There are many different types of stocks to choose from, such as blue-chip stocks , growth stocks , and penny stocks , so make sure you understand your options, what they offer, and what matches with your budget and investing goals. “If you’re going to pick a stock, look at the [company’s] financial statements and select the stock based on the “bucket” you’re trying to fill in your portfolio. For example, are you looking for a dividend stock? Look at the dividend history. Are you looking for a growth stock? Look at the earnings per share : Is it showing consistent growth? [Consider] how these indicators measure against [its] peer group,” says Amy Irvine, a certified financial planner at Rooted Planning Group.
So you want to take steps to look at your income and expense balance sheets and make sure you’re hitting the right bucket — which refers to the grouping of related assets or categories — for your investing needs. For example, investing in small-cap , mid-cap , or large-cap stocks , are a way to invest in different-sized companies with varying market capitalizations and degrees of risk.
If you’re looking to go the DIY route or want the option to have your securities professionally managed, you can consider ETFs, mutual funds, or index funds:
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) — ETFs are a type of exchange-traded investment product that must register with the SEC and allows investors to pool money and invest in stocks, bonds , or assets that are traded on the US stock exchange . There are two types of ETFs: Index-based ETFs and actively managed ETFs. Index-based ETFs track a particular securities index like the S&P 500 and invest in those securities contained within that index. Actively managed ETFs aren’t based on an index and instead aim to achieve an investment objective by investing in a portfolio of securities that will meet that goal and are managed by an advisor. Mutual funds — this investment vehicle also allows investors to pool their money to invest in various assets, and are similar to some ETFs in that way. However, mutual funds are always actively managed by a fund manager. Most mutual funds fall into one of four main categories: bond funds, money market funds, stock funds, and target-date funds. Index funds — this type of investment vehicle is a mutual fund that’s designed to track a particular index such as the S&P 500. Index funds invest in stocks or bonds of various companies that are listed on a particular index. Quick tip: Wondering just how much certain mutual funds will cost you? You can use FINRA’s Fund Analyzer tool to help you examine and compare the costs of owning funds.
You want to get familiar with the various types of investing vehicles and understand the risks and rewards of each type of security. For example, stocks can be lucrative but also very risky. As we mentioned before, mutual funds are actively managed, whereas index-based ETFs and index funds are passively managed.
This is important to keep in mind because your costs and responsibilities vary depending on an active versus passive approach. Mutual funds are professionally managed and may have higher fees. With ETFs and index funds, you can purchase them yourself and may have lower fees. Having a diverse portfolio can help you prepare for the risk and not have all of your eggs in one basket.
“You can choose to invest in individual stocks, a stock mutual fund, or an ETF. ETFs are somewhat similar to mutual funds in that they invest in many stocks, but trade more similarly to an individual stock,” explains Kenny Senour, certified financial planner at Millennial Wealth Management. “For example, let’s say you open a brokerage account with $1,000. You can use that money to purchase a certain number of shares in ABC Company, the underlying price of which fluctuates while the stock market is open. Or you could choose to invest it in a stock mutual fund, which invests in many different stocks and is priced at the close of each market at the end of the day.”
Quick tip: Building a diversified portfolio with individual stocks can be time-consuming, especially for people just starting out. That’s why experts recommend beginner investors focus on mutual funds, index funds, or ETFs, which give you a large selection of stocks in one go.
Step 4: Define your investing strategy The main things to consider when defining your investment strategy are your time horizon, your financial goals, risk tolerance, tax bracket, and your time constraints. Based on this information, there are two main approaches to investing.
Passive investing — an investing strategy that takes a buy-and-hold approach, passive investing is a way to DIY your investments for maximum efficiency over time. In other words, you can do it yourself instead of working with a professional. A buy-and-hold strategy focuses on buying investments and holding on to them as long as possible. Instead of trying to “time” the market, you focus on “time in the market.” Active investing — an active approach to investing that requires buying and selling, based on market conditions. You can do this yourself or have a professional manager managing your investments. Active investing takes the opposite approach, hoping to maximize gains by buying and selling more frequently and at specific times. Quick Tip : Be aware of any fees or related costs when investing. Fees can take a bite out of your investments, so compare costs and fees.
Step 5: Choose your investing account After choosing your investment strategy, you want to choose an investing account that can help you get started. Decide if you want to do it yourself or get a professional to help out.
If you want to be a passive investor and DIY, you can look into:
Robo-advisors like Betterment or Wealthfront , which uses algorithms to invest for you Open a brokerage account with Vanguard , Fidelity , or similar If you want to get started with active investing, you can use:
Use Vanguard actively managed funds Use Fidelity actively managed funds Trade using Public When considering active versus passive investing and if you should DIY it or get a professional, you want to consider several factors. Look at total fees, the time commitment involved and any account minimums as well.
The easiest way for many people to get started with investing is to utilize their employer-sponsored 401(k) . Talk to your employer about getting started and see if they’ll match part of your contributions.
The key is to choose an investment account that fits with your budget and investment strategy, open an account, and then submit an initial deposit. Just know that when you submit money, it’s in a cash settlement account and not yet actively invested (I made this mistake when I first started investing !)
Step 6: Manage your portfolio Now it’s time to start managing your portfolio. So that means buying stocks, ETFs, or index funds with their appropriate codes from your account. That is when your money is actually invested.
But it doesn’t stop there — you also want to continue to add to your portfolio so consider setting up auto-deposits each month. You can also re-invest any earnings or dividends to help build growth over time.
Diversify your portfolio by investing in different types of investment vehicles and industries. A buy-and-hold approach is typically better for beginner investors. It can be tempting to try out day trading, but that can be very risky.
Quick tip: To limit risk, avoid day trading, penny stocks , and industries you don’t understand.
Lastly, you’ll want to rebalance your portfolio at least once a year. As your portfolio grows and dips, your asset allocation — or how much you’ve invested in stocks, bonds, and cash — will have shifted. Rebalancing is basically resetting that to the proportion you want.
“Rebalancing is the practice of periodically selling and buying investments in your underlying portfolio to make sure certain target weights are stable over time. For example, let’s say you are an aggressive investor with 90% of your portfolio in stocks and 10% of your portfolio in bonds. Over time, as stocks and bonds perform differently, those weights will drift,” explains Senour.
“Without periodic rebalancing, your portfolio could become 95% stocks and 5% bonds which may not be in line with your intended financial goals for the account. There’s no “perfect” time frame for rebalancing as some financial professionals suggest doing so every quarter, but conventional wisdom says at a minimum rebalancing at least once per year can make sense.”
Continuing to invest money and rebalance your portfolio periodically will help you keep your investments in good shape.
Helpful resources Need help with learning how to invest in stocks? Here are some top investing books to help you get started.
” The Intelligent Investor ” by Benjamin Graham: This comprehensive book will help you get started with investing and has been considered a “stock-market bible.” ” Broke Millennial Takes On Investing ” by Erin Lowry: This how-to guide will walk you through how to invest in stocks and break down the terms in a straightforward, digestible way. ” A Random Walk Down Wall Street ” by Burton G. Malkiel: This best-seller has been hailed as a go-to for investors and covers the range of investment opportunities and helps you get started on your investment journey. ” How to Buy Stocks ” by Louis Engel and Henry R. Hecht: Considered a “classic” guide on how to buy stocks and what you should know about regulations. The financial takeaway Learning how to invest in stocks can be overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started. Figuring out your goals and determining a budget are the first steps to take.
After that, get acquainted with various investment vehicles and choose the right ones for your financial goals and risk tolerance.
The key is to get started and be consistent. The best investment strategy is the one you’ll stick with. Just be aware all investing comes with risk and do your research on any related fees.
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