Israeli-made Pegasus spyware found on French ministers' phones - report

Technical analyses on the phones of five French ministers show that Israeli Pegasus spyware may have been used to target them.

The logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group is seen at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
The logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group is seen at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

Pegasus surveillance spyware was used to target the phones of at least five French ministers, Mediapart reported Saturday, citing sources.

Technical analyses were done on the phones in July and showed suspect markers, Mediapart reported.

The spyware is produced by the Israeli NSO Group cyber company and recently came under heavy criticism when a report back in July suggested that the software had been used by authoritarian governments worldwide.

The spyware had been used to hack 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists around the world, according to the report.

Hackers and cybersecurity (credit: REUTERS)Hackers and cybersecurity (credit: REUTERS)

The report also revealed that information from over 50,000 phone numbers had been acquired by clients of the spyware company. 

A list of potential targets as set by NSO customers, including French President Emmanual Macron, was then released by multiple sources shortly thereafter, including by Die Zeit and Haaretz. NSO has denied any connection to the list, Haaretz reported, but Pegasus software has been found on several of the potential targets' phones.

Additionally, Amnesty International sued in the Tel Aviv District Court to have NSO's export license revoked back in 2019, but was unsuccessful after over 20 Defense Ministry officials testified on how important Pegasus was to national security.

The software caused controversy long before this report came to light because it can spy on android and Apple smartphones in real-time, allowing conversations to be recorded, data to be collected, and bypassing the encryption on messaging apps, all without the user ever knowing.