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Israeli spyware sparks huge political rows

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Updated, July 28, 2021

by Edward Steen, AEJ General-Secretary

Roula Khalaf

Revelations about the use of Pegasus software used to spy on journalists  – including FT editor Roula Kalaf – and political opponents have caused a worldwide row about electronics developed in Israel. For many in the business, the row about the NSO security company in particular and its clients is long overdue.

Today it emerged that French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to have been selected as “a person of interest”  by Morocco. An Élysée official said: “If this is proven, it is clearly very serious. All light will be shed on these media revelations.”

The investigations into Pegasus involved several international media – see links below – and have been relentless, despite  denials by Pegasus and known clients such as Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban that they were doing anything untoward.

Shalev Hulio, NSO’s chief executive, reacted to the furore by saying: “We are investigating every allegation … and if we find that it is true, we will take strong action.”

At a press conference in Brussels yesterday, Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Vargay , evaded admitting the use of the spyware but said: “Hungary is a state governed by the rule of law and, like any decent state, in the 21st century it has the technical means to carry out its national security tasks.”

The Washington Post reported: “When Pegasus’s infiltration is successful, it can enable total access to a device, allowing spies to review emails, texts and photos, including messages within encrypted communications apps such as WhatsApp and Signal. It can let people listen in on phone conversations, secretly turn on cameras and microphones and marshal location data. In a brochure, NSO bragged to potential clients that, by sending a text message that recipients don’t even have to open, its product can turn smartphones into “an intelligence gold mine.

The investigation into Pegasus has been given front-page treatment by numerous international titles – see links below:

Counterpunch, July 26, 2021 Pegasus rides again

Guardian, July 19, 2021  How Pegasus works

“Global worldwide abuse”

Macron among the targets

Edward Snowden calls for spyware ban

NYT – Israeli software under spotlight

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