The veracity or not of this information could have a strong impact on the relations between France and the countries that have used the Pegasus software. On Wednesday, Chaim Gelfand, a senior official in the NSO group that markets this spyware, told the Tel Aviv-based I24 news channel: “I can tell you with certainty that President Macron was not a target.”
Information that contradicts the comments made the day before by Laurent Richard, director of the organization Forbiden Stories. The latter claimed that, on the contrary, numbers of President Emmanuel Macron and members of the government were on a list of potential targets of the Pegasus software, thus confirming information from the World.
180 journalists targeted around the world
The organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International obtained a list of 50,000 phone numbers, selected by NSO customers for possible surveillance since 2016, and shared it with a consortium of 17 media outlets who revealed their existence on Sunday. Introduced in a smartphone, Pegasus allows you to remotely retrieve messages, photos, contacts and activate microphones.
Like Emmanuel Macron, King Mohammed VI of Morocco and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are on Pegasus’s list of potential targets. To them are added more than 180 journalists around the world allegedly spied on by various states who had access to the software of the company NSO.
A “cruel and defamatory” campaign
“Certain cases have come to light that disturb us,” admitted Chaim Gelfand. “We keep trying to get all the facts and it’s been a number of years so it takes time to go through everything. The fact that a journalist or activist has been targeted by a system like this is automatically considered a hijacking,” he said.
Shortly after, the group in Herzliya, a green city north of Tel Aviv, claimed to be the victim of a “cruel and defamatory” campaign and announced in a statement that it would “no longer answer questions from the media”. about the Pegasus case. “NSO is a technology company. We do not operate the systems nor do we have access to our customers’ data, but they are nevertheless obliged to provide us with this information in case of investigations,” the group added that the fact that a name on the 50,000 list “doesn’t necessarily mean he was targeted by Pegasus.”
The concerned State of Israel
The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to impose an immediate moratorium on the sale of this spyware. By not allowing to protect computer systems, but infiltrate them, Pegasus is considered an offensive cybersecurity product and must therefore be given the green light from the Israeli Defense Ministry to sell it to third countries, just like an armed one.
“Software developed by Israeli companies such as NSO’s Pegasus clearly pertains to the State of Israel. Even if the Israeli authorities played only an indirect role, they cannot evade their responsibility,” the RSF said in a statement. “We call on (Israeli) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to immediately impose a moratorium on the export of surveillance technology until a protective regulatory framework is in place,” said RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire.