As Macron switches phones, Pegasus spy claims are investigated.
On Thursday, Hungary, Israel, and Algeria investigated reports that Israeli-made spyware was used on journalists, human rights campaigners, and 14 heads of state, while French President Emmanuel Macron tightened security and switched phones over espionage worries.
Following a specially scheduled meeting of the nation’s Defence Council, President Macron – whose name was on a list of alleged targets – ordered “a strengthening of all security processes,” according to his office.
Macron “has changed his phone and number for specific communications,” according to the report.
After a list of nearly 50,000 prospective monitoring targets was leaked to rights groups, the NSO Group’s Pegasus software – capable of turning on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvesting its data – is at the center of a brewing controversy.
The list was compiled by Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, a French media NGO, in collaboration with a number of media outlets, including the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Le Monde.
From Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to Morocco, India, and a slew of other primarily rising economies, the scandal is spreading.
With hundreds of targets, including journalists, attorneys, and other prominent personalities, Hungary was the only EU member mentioned as a potential user of the spyware.
The Budapest Regional Investigation Prosecutor’s Office stated on Thursday that prosecutors had begun an investigation “to establish the facts and determine whether and, if so, what crime has occurred.”
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has stated that the government “had no knowledge of such data collection,” while critics have criticized the initiative as a waste of time.
“If they want to investigate, they have years… Andras Lederer of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights remarked, “This is just an administrative procedure.”
NSO claims that its software is only for combatting terrorism and other crimes, and that it exports to 45 countries with Israeli government approval.
The Israeli government announced the formation of a panel to examine the program.
According to politician Ram Ben Barak, a former deputy head of the Mossad intelligence agency, the top priority was to “examine this entire topic of issuing licenses.”
He claimed that Pegasus had “exposed numerous terror cells,” but that “if it was exploited or sold to irresponsible groups, this is something we need to investigate.”
On Thursday, NSO Chief Executive Shalev Hulio told Army Radio that he would “be extremely glad if there were an investigation so that we could clear our name.”
Algeria’s public prosecutor has also issued an order. Brief News from Washington Newsday.