About 50,000 phone numbers that could be spied through Israeli Pegasus software include the numbers of a dozen of prime ministers, three presidents, and a king as The Washington Post reported citing Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International.
President of France Emmanuel Macron is on the list of 14 current and former world leaders whose numbers were targeted by clients of NSO Group that developed Pegasus spyware.
Le Monde reported that Macron’s number was put on the register in March 2019. According to Deutsche Welle, former PM of France Édouard Philippe is among potential victims of espionage. The Élysée Palace has announced the beginning of the relevant investigation. The government promised to do everything to add clarity to the situation.
Besides, the list includes the eighth president of Iraq Barham Salih and current president of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, three current prime ministers: Imran Khan from Pakistan, Mostafa Madbouly from Egypt, and Saadeddine Othmani from Morocco.
Moreover, the list also includes names of former PMs who were spied during being in power: Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr from Yemen, Saad Hariri from Lebanon, Ruhakana Rugunda from Uganda, Édouard Philippe from France, Bakitzhan Sagintayev from Kazakhstan, Noureddine Bedoui from Algeria and Belgium’s Charles Michel.
Even the phone number of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI was spied.
The aim of the list is unknown. The NSO Company does not agree that it was on the list for espionage.
“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.
However, the forensic examination held by the security lab of Amnesty International toward 67 smartphones showed that 37 numbers out of 67 were successfully hacked by Pegasus or showed signs of attempts of the hack. The analyses held by the organization also showed that many phones had signs of malware infection or attempts in a few minutes or even seconds after the time mark mentioned for their numbers on the list.
NSO Company-developer stated that it has 60 clients from state agencies in 40 countries. According to the representatives of the firm, anyway, the aim of Pegasus software are terrorists and criminals such as pedophiles, drug lords, and human traffickers. The company stated that it bans the prosecution of law-abiding persons, including officials, who hold usual work.
NSO chief executive Shalev Hulio stated that his company sticks to the police for protection from abuse.
“Every allegation about misuse of the system is concerning me. It violates the trust that we give customers. 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,” Hulio said.
On July 18, the results of the journalistic investigation Project Pegasus were published. It was stated that the authorities of autocratic states and various special services used Israeli Pegasus software to spy on activists, journalists, and oppositionists.