Macron’s Phone Surveilled by Israeli Spyware Say Security Researchers
French President Emmanuel Macron has allegedly been targeted compromised in a Pegasus spyware campaign. Macron’s phone appears to have been targeted for surveillance by Morocco. The espionage allegations center around military-grade spyware, known as Pegasus, produced by an Israeli company.
The claim that 37 phones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives were compromised was investigated by The Washington Post along with sixteen media partners.
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and Amnesty International had access to the list of compromised phones. Amnesty International’s Security Lab did the forensic analyses on the smartphones.
The Washington Posts laid out the spyware allegations in a post.
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NSO Group Under Fire For International Security Concerns
Pegasus spyware is developed by the Israeli cyberarms firm, NSO Group. The spyware can be covertly installed on mobile phones, running most iOS and Android versions. According to 2021 Project Pegasus, the current Pegasus software is compatible with all recent iOS versions, including iOS 14.6.
An investigation was published on July 17 by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group, Forbidden Stories, stating that Pegasus has been used in both attempted and successful attacks on smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials, and human rights activists. The investigation was led by Forbidden Stories and conducted with 17 other investigators.
NSO Denies Spyware Claims
NSO Group has spoken adamantly against the results of the investigation, stating that its product is solely intended to be used by government intelligence agencies for the purpose of fighting terrorism and crime.
Their statement begins by saying that “following the publication of the recent article by Forbidden Stories, we wanted to directly address the false accusations and misleading allegations presented there.”
NSO also states, “The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the ‘unidentified sources’ have supplied information that has no factual basis and are far from reality.”
According to the French government, these serious allegations, if found to be true, could be cause for serious consequences. Morocco released a statement earlier this week, denying any involvement in the incident or in the use of the Pegasus spyware.
France’s government was also targeted in 2019. Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe and fourteen other ministers’ devices were compromised in a surveillance attack.
Amnesty International Supports the Spyware Accusation
Regarding the recent spyware incidents involving Pegasus spyware, Amnesty International has spoken up in their own statement in the context of the Pegasus Project. The Pegasus Project is an investigative journalism effort to reveal surveillance activities by governments on journalists and other outspoken critics. Amnesty International has dubbed NSO Group’s handling of their software a “wholesale lack of regulation.”
“Amnesty International’s Security Lab has performed in-depth forensic analysis of numerous mobile devices from human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists around the world. This research has uncovered widespread, persistent and ongoing unlawful surveillance and human rights abuses perpetrated using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware,” says Amnesty Internaltional Lab.
The international human rights group has challenged the surveillance and intelligence communities:
“Until this company and the industry as a whole can show it is capable of respecting human rights, there must be an immediate moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology.”
Government Abuses of Surveillance
It is not an uncommon occurrence for governments to utilize cyberespionage on behalf of their nations. Whether on other countries or their own citizens, several governments are under suspicion for, if not confirmed to have engaged in covert surveillance of unwitting parties.
China is reported to have developed a gait-recognition software to surveil its citizens, while other countries, such as the United States and Sri Lanka, have denied reported attempts of citizen and armed forces surveillance in the past year. Human and citizens’ rights groups are working against these endeavors.