Nicole Cozma/CNET

Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm was used in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones belonging to journalists and human rights activists, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners.

In all, 37 phones, including those belonging to two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, were attacked wit spyware by licensed by the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals the investigation found. The phones were included on a list of more than 50,000 numbers concentrated in countries known to conduct surveillance on their citizens.

The list was shared with news organizations by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and human rights group Amnesty International. The investigation, called the Pegasus Project, included a forensic analysis of the phones revealing “tight correlation between time stamps associated with a number on the list and the initiation of surveillance, in some cases as brief as a few seconds.”

NSO Group didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.