Israeli’s NSO Group is in the eye of a storm over its Pegasus spyware – but it is far from the only company helping governments with their covert surveillance operations.

Explosive claims that Pegasus was used to spy on activists and even heads of state have shone a spotlight on the software, which allows highly intrusive access to a person’s mobile phone.

But NSO are merely one player in an industry that has quietly boomed in recent years, arming even cash-strapped governments with powerful surveillance technology.

“These tools have gotten cheaper and cheaper,” said Ms Allie Funk, senior research analyst in technology and democracy at the United States think tank Freedom House.

“So it’s not just the world’s foremost intelligence agencies that can purchase them – it’s smaller governments, or local police agencies.”

Emerging economies such as India, Mexico and Azerbaijan dominate the list of countries where large numbers of phone numbers were allegedly identified as possible targets by NSO’s clients.

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