“Pegasus”: The mythical winged horse, which in its modern version became a “Trojan horse” of espionage and surveillance. The revelations of an international consortium of investigative journalists about the controversial Pegasus surveillance software of the Israeli company NSO Group have shocked the international community.
It is estimated that more than 50,000 telephone numbers, mainly of journalists, activists and politicians, are being monitored for a long time through the software in question. Advanced spyware could access everything a modern cell phone contains: e-mail, photos, videos, personal conversations.
According to a Deutsche Welle article, Hungarian journalist Sampolks Pani of Direct36 is one of an estimated 180 journalists reportedly on some of Pegasus software watchlists.
From Emmanuel Macron's cell phone to Charles Michel
But in addition to journalists, the mobile phones of heads of state and government or other high-ranking officials may have been targets of surveillance through Pegasus. The lists in question include the mobile phone number of European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emanuel Macron , according to the Le Monde newspaper, which took part in the journalistic investigation.
French government spokesman Gabriel Atal said: “The revelations that have now come to light are shocking. “If the allegations turn out to be true, things will be difficult.” In fact , Morocco is said to be behind the surveillance of the mobile phones of Charles Michel and French politicians, something that the country's embassy in Paris denies.
A large number of spy phones also come from Mexico – more than 15,000. Mexico was the first country to acquire the controversial Israeli digital espionage software in 2011. The murder of Mexican investigative journalist Cecilio Pinienta Birto in 2017 may be linked to Pegasus surveillance.
Large list of client countries
Journalists from Azerbaijan, such as investigative journalist Kadyya Ismailova, also appear to have been targeted by Pegasus. Pegasus may also be linked to the brutal assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Kasogi at the Saudi consulate general in Istanbul in 2018. According to Amnesty International, Kasogi's fiancée's cell phone was also digital. The Emirates of Dubai, India and Rwanda are some of the other countries where the controversial software appears to have been used for illicit purposes.
For his part, Reporter Without Borders' Christian Mir calls for an immediate tightening of international law on the dissemination of such malware.