Sunday, February 25

‘Polish Watergate’: Tensions rise as Polish government pushes to investigate spyware allegations

The Polish government is facing increasing pressure to investigate allegations that it illegally used Pegasus, a well-known powerful spyware, against its opponents.

Liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza published a report on Monday stating that the Polish Anti-Corruption Central Office had purchased the software in 2017 and has been using it ever since.

The powerful malware allows its users to hack phones remotely without the knowledge of the target, access the contents or even taking control Of the device.

An investigation from 2021 discovered that Pegasus, created by the Israeli company NSO Group, was used by governments around the world to spy on activists, journalists and politicians, including in France, Spain and Hungary.

The NSO Group insisted that the sole purpose of Pegasus is for law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and organized crime.

‘Polish Watergate’

Now in Poland, there are allegations that the government has also used Pegasus to attack and hack various opposition figures.

Gazeta Wyborcza also alleged that the malware was purchased for more than € 5 million using special funds from the Ministry of Justice earmarked for crime victims.

The hacking allegations have been dubbed “Polish Watergate”, a reference to a 1972-1974 scandal that led to the resignation of former US President Richard Nixon.

Last month, AP reported that the phone of a Polish opposition senator Krzysztof Brejza, who at the time was the head of the Civic Coalition’s election campaign, was hacked 33 times in 2019, allegedly by using Pegasus.

State media leaked messages illegally taken from Brejza’s phone, leading to what was deemed a smear campaign. The ruling Law and Justice or PiS party achieved a narrow victory in the elections.

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The phones of prominent opposition lawyer Roman Giertych and prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek, both at odds with the ruling party they were also hacked.

The government continues to deny their participation

Despite these media reports, the Polish government has downplayed the situation.

Deputy Justice Minister Michał Woś responded on Twitter with an image of a game console from the 1990s also called the Pegasus, calling the allegations “overheated chop”.

Last week Woś also told the Polish media that he was “not aware of such a system.”

But for the opposition, these claims are a direct attack on democracy.

Bogdan Klich, MEP for the opposition Civic Platform party, tweeted that “Polish Watergate is expanding its reach.”

“Pegasus was not only used illegally, it was also purchased illegally,” Klich wrote, referring to the government funds used to purchase the spyware.

The Pegasus spyware researchers said this could be just the “tip of the iceberg” regarding the extent of surveillance in the country.

The government has continuously rejected allegations that it had even purchased Pegasus and has refused to open an investigation into the piracy allegations.

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