Macron and Mohamed VI are among those who suffered interference with Israeli software created by NSO Group
Neither the independence leaders who were spied on with this tool nor the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchezand the Defense Minister, Margaret Oakshave been the only leaders stung with Pegasus, the controversial tool of the Israeli firm NSO Group.
Last year, with the investigation ‘Project Pegasus’ -in which dozens of journalists participated with the support of International Amnesty-, it was known that in the list of possible affected by the espionage program there would be about 50,000 numbers of telephone, where they were those of fourteen heads of state, who were selected by clients of the NSO Group company as persons of interest. Affected countries included Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates.
In all, the list contained the phone numbers of more than 600 high positions governments and politicians from 34 countries. Among the international leaders spied on were the President of France, Emmanuel Macron -which was allegedly monitored by Morocco-; that of Iraq, Barham Salih; that of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa; and the former president of Morocco, Saad-Eddine El Othmani.
The program ‘Pegasus’ also spied to the king of Morocco, Mohammed VI; to the prime ministers of Pakistan, imran khan; those who were prime minister of egypt Mostafa Madbouly; from lebanon Saad Hariri; Ugandan Ruhakana Rugunda; and of Belgium and current President of the European Council, Charles Michael. He also served to watch over the former chairman of the Indian National Congress Party rahul gandhi.
In addition, this year it has become known that Israeli software was used to spy on the official residence of the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnsonin an attack allegedly perpetrated by the United Arab Emirates, according to research by Citizen Lab.
Spying on Khashoggi’s family
Spyware was also used to attack the phones of activists and journalists. International Amnesty considered that the use of the ‘Pegasus’ program “facilitated the commission of human rights violations on a large scale throughout the world.
The journalistic investigation also revealed that before and after the assassination of the Saudi jamal khashoggi in October 2018 at the hands of agents in Saudi Arabia, the spyware targeted members of the journalist’s family. Specifically, ‘Pegasus’ had been installed on the phone of Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, four days after his murder.
His former wife, Hanan Elatr, was also attacked with the software, while their son Abdullah was singled out as a potential target along with other family members. In the same line, Saudi Arabia used in 2018 the program of espionage to attack the tycoon Jeff Bezosowner of Amazon and the Washington Post, which was the newspaper he worked for Khashoggi.
Likewise, ‘Pegasus’ spied on US diplomatic staffwhich led the Biden Administration to include the company NSO Group -manufacturer of the software- on a blacklist.
In Israel, where the tool was created, the use of ‘Pegasus’ also caused a scandalafter it became known at the beginning of 2022 that the police had been following and listening to several public figures, among which the son of the country’s former prime minister and current leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, and members of his inner circle. Likewise, they also spied on general directors of ministries, mayors, protest leaders, activists, journalists and even a witness in one of the corruption cases against Netanyahu.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.