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France and Algeria conduct investigations into Israeli Pegasus spyware issue

A woman checks the website of Israel-made Pegasus spyware at an office in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on July 21, 2021. [MARIO GOLDMAN/AFP via Getty Images]
A woman checks the website of Israel-made Pegasus spyware at an office in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on July 21, 2021. [MARIO GOLDMAN/AFP via Getty Images]

France and Algeria announced on Thursday the opening of separate investigations into the Israeli Pegasus spyware issue, two days after referring to possible espionage operations against officials in both countries. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told the local radio station France Inter that President Emmanuel Macron is "following up the issue closely and takes the matter seriously."

Attal added that Macron held an extraordinary meeting of the Defence and National Security Council at the Élysée Palace to discuss Pegasus and cyber security in the country. The move came two days after it was revealed that Macron's phone was a possible target of a hacking operation using the spyware. France, said Attal, takes cyber security seriously, and has spent 100 million Euros over the past year to protect state institutions from attack.

According to Politico, an unnamed Élysée official said that, "Macron decided to change his phone and phone number, and requested the competent authorities to boost all security protocols in parallel with the ongoing technical operations."

Le Monde revealed on Tuesday that Macron is just one of a number of French government officials to be listed as potential targets of the Pegasus spyware operation. The others include the prime minister and fourteen ministers.

READ: Israeli spyware is a threat to all freedoms everywhere

The Algerian Public Prosecution, meanwhile, also announced a probe into possible espionage operations against local figures using Pegasus. "In light of what was reported by some national and international media and reports from the governments of several countries about espionage and wiretapping operations that targeted Algerian citizens and figures through spyware designed for this purpose, the Public Prosecution ordered the opening of a preliminary probe to investigate the allegations."

On Wednesday, the Guardian published the results of an investigation conducted by 17 media organisations, which concluded that the Israeli Pegasus spyware has been used around the world, primarily for nefarious purposes. The investigation claimed that the governments of at least ten countries are clients of Israeli company NSO, which developed Pegasus, including Morocco and Saudi Arabia. The governments in both Rabat and Riyadh denied the accusations.

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