Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Pegasus spyware under the microscope

The Pegasus program, produced by the Israeli company “NSO”, has sparked global controversy, after human rights and press reports indicated that it was used in attempts to hack the phones of leaders, journalists, government officials, and activists around the world.

Amnesty International and media organizations, and in cooperation with the French journalist Forbidden Stories, said that governments of several countries used the program to monitor the communications of up to 50,000 people, something that most of the governments mentioned in the report denied.

The spyware, developed by an Israeli software company called (NSO Group), allows extracting SMS, photos, emails, recording calls, and activating the phone’s camera and microphone without the owner’s knowledge.

Macron changes his phone and number
A French presidential official said on Thursday that President Emmanuel Macron had changed his phone and number in light of what was revealed in the Pegasus spyware case.

The official added that there was no confirmation that Macron’s phone had actually been hacked. “It is nothing more than additional security measures,” he told Reuters.

The French government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, said that France had decided to amend the insurance procedures, especially those related to Macron’s insurance.

And French newspaper Le Monde reported that one of Macron’s phone numbers, which he has used regularly since 2017, is included in the list of potential spy targets.

Israeli investigation
Israel announced that the government had assembled a team of senior officials from several ministries to look into growing allegations of worldwide exploitation of spyware sold by an Israeli company, adding that an audit of the company’s exports was unlikely.

A prominent member of the Israeli parliament said Thursday that a parliamentary committee may consider imposing restrictions on the export of spyware, according to Reuters.

Morocco files defamation lawsuit
Morocco decided to file a lawsuit before the Criminal Court in Paris against the organizations “Forbidden Stories” and Amnesty International for defamation, according to what the lawyer appointed by the Kingdom to follow up on the case announced in a statement sent to “AFP” Thursday.

Algeria: Investigation into espionage operations
On Thursday, Algeria decided to open an investigation into espionage operations against the country’s interests, which affected Algerian personalities, according to a statement by the Public Prosecutor at the Algiers Judicial Council.

Merkel warns
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged stronger international restrictions on the sale of spyware after reports that several governments had used Pegasus.

International and European condemnation
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Monday for better “regulation” of surveillance technologies after reports on the Pegasus program.

In a statement, Michelle Bachelet said that what was revealed by the media about the spyware program “confirms the urgent need to better regulate the process of sale, transfer, and use of surveillance technologies and to ensure their tight control.”

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