Project Pegasus: Macron Among World Leaders Selected as Potential NSO Spyware Targets

The Pegasus Project has released new evidence revealing that the phone numbers of 14 heads of state – including the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, of Pakistan, Imran Khan, and of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa – were selected by the company’s clients. of NSO Group spyware as numbers of persons of interest.

We’ve known for a long time that activists ‘and journalists’ phones are surreptitiously hacked, but it is clear that even those in the highest echelons of power are not escaping the creepy expansion of NSO’s spyware either.

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard said:

“The unprecedented revelation that the phones of at least 14 heads of state may have been hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware should give world leaders chills.”

“We have known for a long time that activists ‘and journalists’ phones are surreptitiously hacked, but it is clear that even those in the highest echelons of power are also not immune to the murky expansion of NSO spyware. NSO Group can no longer hide behind the claim that its spyware is only used to fight crime; It seems that Pegasus is also the spyware of choice for those who plan to spy on foreign governments. “

“The powerful revelations of Project Pegasus underscore the urgent need for strict regulation that brings order to the ‘wild west’ that is the surveillance industry. States should suspend worldwide the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology until a robust regulatory framework is established that respects human rights. ”

“NSO Group must immediately stop selling its material to countries that have a history of subjecting human rights defenders and journalists to unlawful surveillance.”

“Furthermore, the Israeli government should not authorize export licenses for NSO Group’s cyber surveillance technology if there is a substantial risk that such technology will be used to commit human rights violations.”

Additional information

NSO Group’s spyware has been used to facilitate large-scale human rights violations around the world, according to a important research about the leak of 50,000 phone numbers of possible surveillance targets. Among them are heads of state, activists and journalists, including the family of Jamal Khashoggi.

The Pegasus Project is an innovative collaborative investigation in which more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries have participated under the coordination of Forbidden Stories, a non-profit media organization based in Paris (France) , and with technical support from Amnesty International, which conducted state-of-the-art mobile phone forensics to identify traces of spyware.

Washington Post, which is part of the consortium, revealed today that the list contained the numbers 14 heads of state as persons of interest. Among them are Mohammed VI, from Morocco; Emmanuel Macron, from France; Barham Salih, from Iraq; Cyril Ramaphosa, from South Africa; Mostafa Madbouly, from Egypt; Imran Khan from Pakistan; Saad-Eddine El Ohtmani, from Morocco; Saad Hariri, from Lebanon; Ruhakana Rugunda, from Uganda, and Charles Michel, from Belgium. The list contained the phone numbers of more than 600 senior government and political officials from 34 countries.

Amnesty International was unable to conduct a forensic analysis of world leaders’ phones to confirm whether they had been attacked or spyware had been installed on them.

NSO has denied that Macron and Mohammed VI were ever on a client target list. The company insists that its spyware is only intended for use against terrorists and those responsible for serious crimes, and has reiterated that it will “investigate all credible reports of misuse” and “take strong action” where they are founded.

Israeli surveillance giant NSO Group has received funding from prominent private equity firms Novalpina Capital and Francisco Partners, after which there are numerous investors. Pension fund companies from the United Kingdom and the United States also have a stake in the company.

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