Sunday, December 3, 2023

Phone numbers of 14 world leaders on Pegasus list

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Illustration: Maktoob

Three presidents, 10 prime ministers, and a king are among the more than 50,000 individuals whose phone numbers appeared on a leaked list of potential targets of Pegasus, the military-grade Israeli spyware, according to Washington Post.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Iraq’s Barham Salih, and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa are the three sitting presidents who are targeted in the NSO group’s spyware attack.

According to the Post, the phone numbers of hundreds of public officials, including 14 heads of state and government, appeared on the list. It was not possible to confirm if the world leaders’ smartphones had been infected with Pegasus because none agreed to a forensic analysis of their iPhones or Android devices.

Three current prime ministers — Egypt’s Mostafa Madbouly, Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani, and Pakistan’s Imran Khan — and seven former prime ministers, whose numbers were added while they were still in office, appeared on the list.

“No one is safe from the out-of-control designer spyware industry,” tweeted Edward Snowden, American whistleblower. “Export controls have failed as a means of regulating this easily abused technology. Without an immediate global moratorium on the trade, this will only get worse.”

The collaborative investigation of 17 news organisations from across the world with Amnesty Security Lab and Forbidden stories, dubbed the Pegasus Project, was first made public on Sunday. Since then, partner newsrooms have been disclosing more information about the worldwide reach of Pegasus, NSO’s signature hacking tool.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director-general, also appears to have been of interest to Morocco in 2019 is also part of the list.

In its statement, NSO said the leaked list “is not a list of targets or potential targets of NSO’s customers”.

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