The President of the Republic is said to be one of the 50,000 telephone numbers monitored by the Israeli software Pegasus. Information denied by the Israeli cybersecurity giant NSO.
A senior official at Israeli cybersecurity giant NSO argued Wednesday, July 21 that French President Emmanuel Macron had not been targeted by his controversial Pegasus software, at the heart of a global spy scandal that has pushed the NGO Reporters without borders to demand a moratorium on its sales. Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International have obtained a list of 50,000 phone numbers, selected by NSO clients since 2016 for potential monitoring, and shared it with a consortium of 17 media outlets who revealed its existence on Sunday.
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French President Emmanuel Macron, King Mohammed VI of Morocco and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are on Pegasus’ list of potential targets, as are more than 180 journalists around the world who have allegedly been spied on by different states having gained access to the software from NSO. Introduced in a smartphone, Pegasus allows you to retrieve messages, photos, contacts, and to activate microphones remotely.
Chaïm Gelfand, a senior group official, told Tel Aviv-based I24 news on Wednesday: “I can tell you with certainty that President Macron was not a target […] There are some cases that have come to light that bothers us“. And to affirm: “We keep trying to figure out all the facts and it goes back several years so it takes time to go through everything. The fact that a journalist or activist has been the target of a system like this is automatically considered hijacking.».
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Soon after, the group based in Herzliya, a verdant city north of Tel Aviv, said it was the victim of a campaign “vicious and slanderous“, And announced in a statement that”was no longer going to answer questions from the mediaOn the Pegasus case. “NSO is a technology company. We do not operate the systems, nor do we have access to the data of our customers, but they are nevertheless obliged to provide us with this information in the event of inquiries.“Added the group saying that the fact that a name appears on the list of 50,000”doesn’t necessarily mean he was the target of Pegasus».
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A moratorium ?
The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday (July 21) called on the Israeli government to immediately impose a moratorium on the sale of this spyware. Not allowing to protect computer systems, but to infiltrate them, Pegasus is considered an offensive cybersecurity product and must therefore obtain the green light from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to be sold to third countries, just like a armed.
«Software developed by Israeli firms like NSO’s Pegasus clearly implicates the State of Israel. Even if the Israeli authorities played only an indirect role, they cannot escape their responsibility.RSF said in a statement. “We call on (Israeli) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to immediately impose a moratorium on exports of surveillance technology until a protective regulatory framework is established.», Declared Christophe Deloire, its general secretary.
Contacted by AFP, the office of Naftali Bennett, did not respond. A former defense minister who made his fortune in high technology before entering politics, the latter defended this booming sector in Israel on Wednesday without commenting on the NSO file. “For every $ 100 invested in cyber defense around the world, $ 41 is invested in Israeli firmsHe said, attributing the local prosperity of the sector to elite army units that serve as an incubator for local start-ups.
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