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France's Macron asks for explanation from Israel premier about spyware on his phone

July 25, 2021 at 12:27 pm

French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France on 23 March 2021 [Julien Mattia/Anadolu Agency]

French President Emmanuel Macron demanded from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett an official explanation for the Pegasus spyware developed by the Israel-based NSO Group during a telephone conversation Saturday, reports Anadou Agency.

Israeli Channel 12 said Macron expressed discomfort about reports that his mobile phone and others of French government officials were compromised. Bennett promised an investigation at the highest level would be launched but noted the incident occurred before he assumed office.

It was alleged that at least 10 governments – including Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates – were customers of the NSO Group and spyware was used to target activists, journalists, lawyers and politicians.

The Pegasus spyware — once installed — is virtually undetectable, and can access to the phone, including call logs, messages, emails. The software can activate the microphone and camera to record conversations, essentially making a smartphone a walking surveillance device.

Opinion: Israeli spyware is a threat to all freedoms everywhere

It was revealed by France’s Le Monde that Macron’s numbers and the phone numbers of several members of the French government appeared on the list of 50,000 targets obtained by Amnesty International and Forbidden News for NSO’s controversial Pegasus programme.

However, there is no way of telling whether or not Macron’s phone was infected with Pegasus, only that he was on a list of targets requested by NSO clients.