Spyware was found on the smartphones of various EU employees. Didier Reynders, European Commissioner of Justice, writes in a letter that Apple warned him in 2021 that his iPhone may have been hacked with NSO Group’s spy software. His devices and those of employees were examined. It turned out that there were indications that a hack had taken place.
That writes Reuters. The American news agency managed to get hold of a letter from European Commissioner Reynders addressed to Sophie in ‘t Veld, the reporter of the investigative committee that looks at the extent to which Pegasus has been used to wiretap European politicians.
Pegasus, or possibly other spyware?
Reynders gives few details in the letter. The European Commissioner does say, however, that “it is impossible to attribute these indications with complete certainty to a specific perpetrator”. It is therefore unclear whether it concerns Pegasus, or whether eavesdropping software from another manufacturer has been found. There are plenty of candidates for that.
Last month, Google stumbled upon spyware called Hermit. RCS Lab, a security company from Milan, is responsible for the development of the spy software. This would have been used to eavesdrop on people in Italy, Kazakhstan and Syria. The company says it adheres to all laws and regulations and denies being involved in secretly spying on smartphone users.
This week, Greek opposition leader and MEP Nikos Androulakis filed a complaint for being the victim of spyware called Predator. He received a suspicious message with a URL he didn’t trust. Androulakis had his phone examined and found out that his device had spyware on it. The opposition leader has asked the government if it has purchased this spyware and ordered it to be wiretapped.
NSO Group pledges to cooperate in European Parliament investigation
Reuters has asked Reynders for clarification, but he was not available for comment. The spokesman for the European Commissioner, David Marechal, was also not available for comment. A spokeswoman for NSO Group said the company is willing to cooperate with the European Commission of Inquiry PEGA.
“As there is no concrete evidence to date that a hack has taken place, our help is crucial. We consider any illegal use by a customer who tries to wiretap activists and journalists as a serious infringement,” the spokeswoman said.
Several EU Member States have purchased technology NSO Group
Pegasus has been under fire in Europe for quite some time. The European Parliament suspects that NSO Group’s spy software has been actively used to eavesdrop on Catalan, Spanish, British, Polish, Greek and Hungarian politicians. Hundreds of journalists worldwide would also be secretly spied on with the Israeli spyware.
To see if the allegations are true, the European Parliament decided in March to set up a committee of inquiry. This committee, also known as the PEGA committee, spoke in June with Chaim Gelfand, the legal adviser of NSO Group. He claimed that at least five European member states have purchased Pegasus in the past. He kept in the middle of which countries it concerns.
Last week, the Commission of Inquiry visited Israel to question the CEO of NSO Group and employees of the Ministry of Defense. The survey revealed that 14 Member States have purchased technology from NSO Group in the past. The Commission of Inquiry is currently questioning officials in Hungary, Poland and Spain about the use of Pegasus.
NSO Group sued, denies allegations
In anticipation of the results of the PEGA committee, which are expected early next year, other parties will take action. Apple and Amnesty International have sued NSO Group. The human rights organization wants a “grounded and independent investigation” into the conduct of the Israeli company. President Joe Biden has blacklisted the security firm. This means that American companies are not allowed to do business with NSO Group.
NSO Group denies that customers use Pegasus to eavesdrop on citizens. “Our technologies are used every day to take down pedophile and drug and sex trafficker networks, locate missing and abducted children, track down survivors trapped under collapsed buildings, and protect the airspace from disruptive penetration by dangerous drones,” he said. the company in a statement.
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