French President Emmanuel Macron has changed his mobile phone and phone number in connection with the Pegasus spyware case, a presidential spokesman said Thursday in one of the first concrete actions announced in connection with the scandal.
“He has several phone numbers. This does not mean that he was spied on. It’s just extra security, ”the official told Reuters. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the president’s security protocols were adapted in light of the incident.
A global outcry was caused by several international media reports that Pegasus spyware was used to hack the smartphones of journalists, human rights activists and government officials in several countries.
In Israel, home to the Pegasus development company, NSO Group, a senior MP said a parliamentary commission could examine restrictions on spyware exports. NSO declares that its software is used to combat crime and terrorism and denies any wrongdoing.
“We obviously take (this) very seriously,” Attal told reporters hours after an emergency cabinet meeting on the Pegasus allegations.
Le Monde newspaper and Radio France reported on Tuesday that Macron’s phone was on a list of potential targets for Moroccan surveillance. Both media outlets stated that they did not have access to Macron’s phone and could not verify whether his phone was indeed being spied on.
Morocco rejects these charges.
French lawyer Olivier Baratelli from Morocco said the government plans to file defamation suits in Paris against non-governmental organizations Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, French news agency franceinfo reported on Thursday. The two groups were involved in the Pegasus investigation and claimed that Morocco was pursuing French officials for spyware surveillance.
Amid growing EU concerns, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin that spyware should be banned in countries without judicial oversight.
On Thursday, the Hungarian prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into several complaints received following the reports.
Israel has appointed an inter-agency team to evaluate reports based on investigations from 17 media outlets that say Pegasus has been used in attempts or successful attempts to hack smartphones using malware that can extract messages, record calls and secretly activate microphones.
The National Statistical Office dismissed reports from media partners as “full of false assumptions and unconfirmed theories.” Reuters did not independently verify the post.
“We definitely need to rethink this whole topic of licenses granted by DECA,” Ram Ben-Barak, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Israeli Army Radio, referring to the government-run Export Control Agency. in defense.
A group of the Government of Israel “will conduct its checks, and we will definitely study the results and see if something needs to be corrected here,” Ben-Barak said. A former deputy head of the Mossad, he said that the correct use of Pegasus “has helped so many people.”
DECA is part of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and oversees the export of NSOs. Both the ministry and the firm said Pegasus is designed to track only terrorists or criminals, and that all foreign clients are government verified.
NSO states that it does not know the specific individuals against whom customers are using Pegasus. The company states that if it receives a complaint about Pegasus misuse from a client, NSO may retroactively receive target lists and, if the complaint is confirmed, unilaterally shut down that client’s software.
Other world leaders among those whose phone numbers were on the list of possible targets, according to news organizations, include Pakistani Prime Minister Imram Khan and King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
© Thomson Reuters 2021