All the latest Pegasus hacks

by Marco Orioles

A commission of inquiry has been set up in the European Parliament on Pegasus, the Nso Group software used to spy on politicians and activists. Marco Orioles's article

Macron and thirteen other heads of state and government; the N. 10 Downing Street; the European Commission; 65 supporters of Catalan independence. The list of targets for Pegasus, the now famous spyware produced by the Israeli NSO Group, which infects the smartphones of the targets to be spied on and takes control of them, even activating the microphone remotely, no longer ends. In recent days there have been a series of revelations about these hackers, on the eve - not surprisingly - of the beginning of the activity of the ad hoc Commission of Inquiry established in the European Parliament, which intends to shed light on the possible abuses of this powerful software from even governments such as Poland, Hungary and Greece. In the viewfinder, no. 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office The complaint came through a post dated April 18 on the Citizen Lab blog, signed by its director Ron Deibert, who is also a professor of political science at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto. "We can confirm that in 2020 and 2021 we observed and notified the UK government of the existence of multiple cases of infections with Pegasus spyware within official UK networks." According to this investigation, the same office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office were targeted. There is even an indication of the alleged perpetrators: in the case of Downing Street it would be an unknown operator identified in the United Arab Emirates; for the Foreign Office it points in the direction of the Emirates themselves, of India, Cyprus and Jordan. As soon as the news spread, denials and no comments flooded. They were collected by Reuters, which took note of the silence of both the British government and those of the Emirates, Jordan and India. The speaker is the spokesman for the government of Cyprus, Marios Pelekanos, but only to "categorically deny" any responsibility. Also through Reuters, however, the denial of NSO was recorded, a spokesperson of which stated that the allegations are "false and could not be connected with our products for technological and contractual reasons". The Catalan separatists To reveal the identity of other illustrious victims of Pegasus and a similar spyware called Candiru, identified among "the highest levels of the Catalan government, up to (Catalan) members of the European Parliament, deputies and their collaborators and family members" was again the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto. The scandal had already partially emerged in 2020 when several supporters of the independence movement announced that they had been targeted by Pegasus and Candiru and had received news not only from Citizen Lab but also from WhatsApp. Among the targets is the current president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès i Garcia, who entrusted his indignation to a tweet: But in the list of victims of Israeli spyware there is even the staff of the most famous former president Carles Puigdemont, currently a member of the European Parliament like three other colleagues whose cell phones have been infected. "We as MEPs, and even one of our assistants - were the words of Puigdemont reported by Euronews - were spied on with Pegasus while we were working in this building, thus putting the communications of the entire European Parliament at risk". It goes without saying that the main suspect is the Madrid government, as Likhita Banerji of Amnesty International insinuated, demanding clarity from the Spanish executive as to whether or not he is a customer of the NSO Group. Naturally, the Spanish government denied the accusations to the sender, sending Minister Isabel Rodríguez forward to say that the executive "has nothing to hide". Target European Commission Let's take a step back and go to last April 11, when Reuters published an exclusive scoop according to which - as the title chosen by the agency - "Senior EU officials were targeted with Israeli spyware". According to Reuters sources, the devices of the Belgian Commissioner of Justice Didier Reynders and four members of the Commission staff were also infected for a period from February to September 2021. According to the documents viewed by Reuters, the Commission would have become aware of the intrusions through specific reports sent by Apple to thousands of Iphone owners, informed by Cupertino that their devices had been "targeted by state sponsored attacks" . The news here is that Apple for the first time felt compelled to notify its customers through a mass alert. However, Apple has not confirmed to Reuters itself that it has made such a move. Mouths also sewn by Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke and also by Commissioner Reynders. He declares himself totally unrelated to the NSO facts, according to which attacks such as those reported "could not have occurred with our tools". The Commission of Inquiry of the European Parliament The one who now intends to shed light on the proportions of the NSO-Pegasus case is the Parliament of Strasbourg. The work of the special commission of inquiry chaired by the popular Jeroen Lenaers began on April 19. A dossier with “numerous cases”, reports Euronews, “which includes allegations of espionage against Hungary, Poland and Greece is being examined by its members. As Euractiv observes, the commission of inquiry was formed following the model of the one that was set up in 2006 to investigate the thorny case of CIA secret prisons in Europe. In this regard, the coordinator of the group of the Greens in the European Parliament Saskia Bricmont told Euractiv that "the use of this spyware by the authorities of the member states must be clarified and the responsibilities attributed". "We are not talking here about some attack by dictators or autocrats in the third world," said Green German MEP Hannah Neumann. "These cases clearly demonstrate that European democracies are not immune from abuse." However, there is an invitation not to be too hasty in attributing responsibilities. This is what Kenneth Lasoen, a researcher at the Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations, does, who recalls how “Brussels is a real nest of spies”.