In 2020 and 2021, prominent British politicians have been secretly bugged with Pegasus. NSO Group’s espionage software has been found in several government departments in the United Kingdom. 10 Downing Street, where the British Prime Minister’s office is located, is said to have been tapped using the Israeli company’s software.
The Citizen Lab reports this in a press release.
In addition to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has also been spied on, according to Citizen Lab security researchers. Due to a merger between departments and government services, this body is today known as the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Based on the data sent, the Citizen Lab concludes that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are involved in the wiretapping.
The interest group did not provide further details about the incident. She emphasizes that the UK is currently busy finalizing cybersecurity legislation. “We believe it is critical that such efforts can unfold without the undue influence of spyware,” wrote Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab.
The Citizen Lab does not know what data has been stolen.
NSO denies involvement
A spokesman for Prime Minister Johnson confirms to The New Yorker that a device connected to the internal network of 10 Downing Street has been hacked. He declined to confirm whether the device was infected with Pegasus. The National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) has examined multiple phones in the prime minister’s premises. The hacked device was not found during the search.
According to the Citizen Lab, the espionage took place between July 2020 and June 2021. In addition to the UAE, India and Cyprus are also said to have been actively involved. Government spokespersons for these countries declined to comment on the report.
NSO Group responded to the news in the usual way and denied any involvement. “The information emerging from the investigation is again incorrect. For technological and contractual reasons, there can be no connection with NSO products,” said a spokesman for the Israeli company.
Amnesty wants independent investigation into wiretapping scandal Catalan politicians
It would not be the first wiretapping scandal involving NSO Group. Earlier today we wrote that Catalan politicians, lawyers, activists, journalists, regional MPs and other proponents of an independent Catalonia have been bugged with Pegasus. All in all, at least 63 people were said to have been spied on with the Israeli company’s spy software.
Amnesty International called for a “thorough and independent investigation” into the Spanish government’s use of Pegasus. Likhita Banerji, technology and human rights researcher at Amnesty wants the use, sale and transfer of espionage technology to be temporarily halted to prevent further human rights violations.
European Parliament launches investigation into Pegasus
The European Parliament has set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the scope and impact of Pegasus in Europe. Sophie in ‘t Veld (D66) heads this committee and hopes to present the conclusions early next year. The issue is more topical than ever now that several European policymakers have been wiretapped. Among others, European Commissioner of Justice Didier Reynders and four of his colleagues are said to have been spied on. This has not been confirmed by the politicians concerned or their spokespersons.
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