PM and Defense Minister of EU member spied on — Analysis
Pegasus malware was detected on Margarita Robles and Margarita Sanchez’s phones
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was attacked by Israeli-made Pegasus malware, while Margarita Robertles, Defense Minister, had her mobile phone hacked with the spyware. The source of the malware is unclear, although Catalan leaders for independence have accused the Spanish government with using it against them.
Bolanos told a press conference that Sanchez’ phone had been infected in May 2021, and that at least one data leak had occurred, Reuters reported.
“The interventions were illicit and external. External means carried out by non-official bodies and without state authorization,”He said this, but did not say whether Spanish or foreign groups were involved in the operation.
Pegasus, a highly sophisticated hacking tool, was developed by NSO Group in Israel and is sold to high-ranking state clients all over the globe. Amnesty International revealed its widespread usage last summer. More than a dozen media organisations also exposed it. The spyware has been reported to have targeted top politicians like Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, who was allegedly targeted by hackers in the United Arab Emirates.
This malware was illegally used to access around 50,000 smartphones worldwide. The targets included journalists, activists, businesspeople, and politicians. The Israeli software grants the hacker the ability to read messages, look through photos, track the person’s location, and even switch on the camera without the knowledge of the phone’s owner.
According to Citizen Lab, over 60 Spanish phones that were linked to Catalan Independence activists were apparently breached in 2015-2020. The targets included members of the European Parliament and Catalan Presidents as well as jurists and civil society members, according to last month’s report.
Israel insists it only ‘legally’ spies on citizens
“Every Catalan Member of the European Parliament (MEP) that supported independence was targeted either directly with Pegasus, or via suspected relational targeting,” Citizen Lab said. “Three MEPs were directly infected, two more had staff, family members, or close associates targeted with Pegasus.”
The culprits of the Catalan political crisis are not yet known, but they have blamed Spain’s government. Previous reports in local media accused Spain’s National Intelligence Center of using Pegasus to snoop on the separatists since 2015, under the governments of Sanchez and his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy.
Sanchez’ government has not taken responsibility for spying on the Catalonians, and said that it would investigate the allegations. NSO Group strongly denied these claims, and told the New Yorker “These allegations are, yet again, false,”Similar accusations have been refuted before. Although there have been other claims of spying in the past the company insisted that their products were used only for legal law enforcement purposes.
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