A presidential official said on Thursday that French President Emmanuel Macron had changed his mobile phone and phone number in light of the Pegasus spyware case, which was one of the first specific actions announced in response to the scandal. .
“He has several phone numbers. This does not mean that he is under surveillance. This is just an additional security measure,” the official told Reuters. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that the president’s security agreement is being adjusted in response to the incident.
Several international media organizations reported that Pegasus spyware was used to invade the smartphones of journalists, human rights activists and government officials in multiple countries, triggering a global outcry.
In Israel, home to Pegasus developer NSO Group, a senior member of parliament said that a parliamentary group might investigate spyware export restrictions. NSO stated that its software is used to combat crime and terrorism and denied any wrongdoing.
“Obviously, we take (this matter) very seriously,” Attar told reporters hours after paying attention to the Pegasus allegations in an emergency cabinet meeting.
Le Monde and Radio France reported on Tuesday that Macron’s mobile phone was on the list of potential surveillance targets in Morocco. The two media said that they could not access Macron’s mobile phone, nor could it verify whether his mobile phone was actually tapped.
Morocco has denied these allegations.
According to a report by the French news media franceinfo on Thursday, Olivier Baratelli, a French lawyer in Morocco, stated that the government plans to file a defamation lawsuit against the non-governmental organizations Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories in Paris. The two groups participated in the Pegasus investigation and claimed that Morocco had targeted French officials as spyware surveillance targets.
In the context of growing concerns in the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin that spyware should be refused to countries without judicial supervision.
Hungarian prosecutors launched an investigation into multiple complaints received after the report was released on Thursday.
Israel has appointed an inter-ministerial team based on the investigation and evaluation report of 17 media organizations. The investigation stated that Pegasus had been used to try or successfully hack into smartphones. The malware can extract messages, record calls and secretly activate microphones.
NSO rejected reports from media partners, saying it was “full of false assumptions and unproven theories.” Reuters has not independently verified the report.
“Of course we must re-examine the entire subject matter of the license granted by DECA,” Ramben-Barak, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Israel Army Radio, referring to the government-run Defense Export Control Agency.
Ben-Barak said that the Israeli government team “will conduct inspections and we will definitely investigate the results of the investigation to see if we need to solve the problem here.” As the former deputy director of Mossad, he said that the correct use of Pegasus “helped a lot of people.”
DECA is part of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and is responsible for overseeing NSO exports. Both the ministry and the company stated that Pegasus is designed to be used only to track terrorists or criminals, and that all foreign clients are censored governments.
NSO stated that it does not know the specific identities of customers using Pegasus. The company stated that if it receives a complaint about Pegasus being abused by a customer, NSO can retroactively obtain a list of targets, and if the complaint proves to be true, it will unilaterally shut down the customer’s software.
News organizations say that other world leaders whose phone numbers are on the list of possible targets include Pakistani Prime Minister Imram Khan and Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
© Thomson Reuters 2021