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The words that led the president of SaferNet to be spied on, threatened and to leave the country


The president of SaferNet Brazil, Thiago Tavares, Left Brazil, voluntarily exiling himself in Germany, after suffering threats, having its employee kidnapped, a family member attacked (admitted after suffering traumatic brain injury) and find that you have been infected with the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

In an official note to SaferNet Brasil employees, published on Monday (06), Tavares revealed that self-exile is an extreme measure, but necessary, since “it is in grave and imminent risk”.

SaferNet Brasil is a non-profit organization fighting for human rights on the internet, with a strong presence in the fight against digital pedophilia and electoral misinformation. Pegasus is a spyware provided by the Israeli NSO Group capable of stealing files, photos, videos and messages stored on the device., as you do real-time transmission of browsing history, location, microphone and camera.

In the note, Tavares explains that began to receive death threats after a presentation at the Second International Seminar Disinformation and Elections, of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), of October 26, 2021.

“These threats, until then restricted to the electronic/digital medium, gained another dimension on the night of November 22, 2021, when another SaferNet employee suffered a lightning kidnapping, in Salvador (BA), by four armed criminals, who approached him and, with violence and serious threat, including LGBTphobic content, stole his cell phone and functional laptop. Thiago Tavares was just 800 meters from the place where the boarding took place […]”, writes Tavares.

Although Thiago was already dealing with death threats, kidnapping colleagues, the director of SaferNet realized it was time to move to another country when a member of his family was attacked and ended up in intensive care, and also when he discovered his computer was infected with the controversial NSO Group spyware Pegasus, a tool used by authoritarian governments to spy on journalists, activists and opposition political representatives — as well as their friends and family.

“On Thursday night (02/12), SaferNet has collected evidence of compromise of Thiago Tavares’ MacBook Pro laptop by Pegasus malware, which has been used illegally to harass journalists and human rights defenders in several countries around the world, including Brazil […] On the afternoon of that same Thursday, a family member of Thiago Tavares suffered a traumatic brain injury when disembarking from an Uber in Salvador (BA), requiring admission to an ICU.“, he writes.

Tavares explains that the measure (change of country) is temporary and will continue until the circumstances are fully clarified and conditions of personal security are restored.

The Official Note, signed by Tavares, was published by the Convergência Digital portal. Photo: Digital Convergence.
The Official Note, signed by Tavares, was published by the Convergência Digital portal. Photograph: Digital Convergence.

The speech that gave rise to the threats

According to the Official Note of Tavares, the threats began to appear after a brief presentation of less than 30 minutes, with the name “How hate and disinformation campaigns are structured”, during the Second International Seminar on Disinformation and Elections, of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), broadcast on October 26, 2021.

During your presentation, Tavares presented facts, documents and court decisions, which describe how neo-Nazi and Hitlerite groups, often supported by the president of the republic, Jair Bolsonaro (no party), organize themselves on the internet (both superficial, as in the dark web and in Telegram groups) to harm electoral results through disinformation campaigns, physical attacks on political representatives and terrorist conspiracies.

Tavares draws attention to “disturbing” situations, when these groups are remembered, empowered and legitimized by representatives of political parties, who currently occupy public power.

“It’s very serious and disturbing when we see public authorities [representantes e órgãos políticos] in Brazil, reproducing, including in official events and documents, the iconography used by extremist groups, Hitler oriented and defending eugenic, neo-Nazi ideas that threaten people who think differently and, in the most serious cases, defend the extermination of these people. These groups feel legitimized and empowered whenever they are remembered by these authorities, including the highest authority in the country. [o presidente sem partido, Jair Bolsonaro]“, comments

 Presentation by Tavares during Second International Seminar Disinformation and Elections: Screenshot: The Hack.
Presentation by Tavares during Second International Seminar Disinformation and Elections: Screenshot: The Hack.

In one of his speeches, Tavares reveals — based on judged court cases and public documents — that members of neo-Nazi and Hitlerite groups can buy firearms more easily than other members of society. “Official evidence proves that certain extremist groups, including neo-Nazi and Hitlerite ones, have easy access to firearms and explosives of restricted use and controlled by the armed forces,” he said.

 Presentation by Tavares during Second International Seminar Disinformation and Elections: Screenshot: The Hack.
Presentation by Tavares during Second International Seminar Disinformation and Elections: Screenshot: The Hack.

During electoral processes, these groups become especially active.. Both on the open internet, but mainly on the dark web, in anonymous Telegram and Chans groups, neo-Nazi cells continue to organize and coordinate to interfere in electoral processes in Brazil. In 2018, a meme war was organized, using a military doctrine used by Nazi troops during World War II, which consists of lightning attacks, which surprise the enemy’s defense. [o termo Blitzkrieg]”.

 Presentation by Tavares during Second International Seminar Disinformation and Elections: Screenshot: The Hack.
Presentation by Tavares during Second International Seminar Disinformation and Elections: Screenshot: The Hack.

In 2017 and 2018, members of a neo-Nazi cell — one of them who has already been arrested twice by the Federal Police, the first in 2012 and the second in 2015 — they even created a cryptocurrency, called BolsoCoin, with the objective of monetizing the brokerage of anonymous electoral donations, placed during the campaign. The plan failed with the decree of preventive detention of one of the gang’s leaders, followed by a condemnatory sentence, with sentences of more than 40 years of imprisonment, which sentence was fixed by the doctor [Marcos] Josegrei [da Silva], federal judge in the criminal court of Curitiba (PR), who was also threatened with death by members of the same gang“, explains.

Tavares’ lecture starts at 02:52:58.

Who owns the controversial Pegasus, from the NSO Group, in Brazil?

According to a report from Época magazine, from September 2019, Pegasus spyware was presented by federal delegate Alexandre Custódio Neto as an innovative remote espionage solution, during a congress of the National System for the Prevention and Repression of Narcotics (Siren).

During his presentation, Custódio informed that the spyware was offered to the Federal Police (PF) for, at the time, U$ 2.7 million (R$ 15 million). “The price included seven ‘licenses’ (accessibility [infectar] seven devices simultaneously)”, writes the report.

The magazine heard a police officer who preferred not to be identified, but who assured that the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) and the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) negotiated a possible purchase with the NSO Group. Chief Custodio denied. “We just did a concept test,” said the delegate to Época’s newsroom.

The report also revealed that the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin), the armed forces, the Military Police of the Federal District, the Public Ministry of the Federal District and the Attorney General’s Office were the biggest customers of the Italian Hacking Team, developer of cyberespionage tools, competitor with Pegasus.

NSO Group occupied Hacking Team space […] The Italian company took a big hit. Whoever was negotiating with them didn’t want more. They continued in the market, but without relevance. That’s when the NSO started to appear, offering Pegasus,” said Kaspersky security researcher Fabio Asssolini.

The anonymous policeman said that “the NSO attacks the Brazilian market with an aggressive sales policy […] They are selling it as if it were any commodity.

Also according to Época, there are at least two great NSO Group sales executives in Brazil. Furthermore, Bolsonaro government officials have visited Israel to negotiate software supplies and the NSO Group several times. NSO Group CEO Shalev Hulio also visited Brazil, in uniform, after the Brumadinho disaster in March 2019.

Pegasus and the Brazilian government

According to UOL, in June of this year, the Rio de Janeiro councilor, Carlos Bolsonaro, son of President Jair Bolsonaro, submitted purchase orders for Pegasus, in the amount of R$ 25.4 million.

The United Nations (UN) has come out against the purchase of spyware on social networks, warning of the irreversible damage to democracy that this tool can cause when misused.

Already according to the portal crumbs, the Association of Federal Police Delegates organized the third International Security Symposium, in which NSO Group employees participated in October 2020.

Although we don’t have confirmation of the Bolsonaro government’s purchase of spyware, the police and intelligence agencies (controlled by the president) and members of the Bolsonaro government were the only ones publicly interested in the Pegasus purchase. Thus, Thiago Tavares, who was infected by Pegasus, may be being spied on by the president of the republic, who did not even try to hide his interest in spy software.

Source: TheHack

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