At least five French ministers and President Emmanuel Macron's diplomatic advisor mobile phones have been infected by Israel-made Pegasus spyware, whistle-blowers confirmed on Friday 24th of September.
As per a Mediapart report on Friday, French security agencies have discovered software during the phone inspection, with breaches reported in 2019 and 2020.
In July Pegasus produced by NSO Group, the Israeli company, was already in the middle of a hurricane following a list of around 50,000 possible surveillance targets worldwide leaking to the media, and was capable of switching the camera or microphone and harbor their data.
The insinuation was made about two months after the Pegasus Project, the media consortium which included the Guardian, found that a leaked database at the core of the investigatory project included contact information of top France officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron and most of its 20-strong cabinet.
There is no strong proof of successful hacking of phones of the five cabinet members however media reports suggest that the devices were targeted by the potent spyware known as Pegasus, which is created by the NSO Group.
Pegasus enables users to track the conversation, text messages, pictures, and location whenever installed effectively by government customers within the Israeli firm and can convert phones into remotely controlled listening devices.
The consortium of Pegasus Project, organized by the French Forbidden Stories non-profit media, showed that international customers of NSO utilized hacker tools to attack journalists and human rights organizations.
NSO reportedly stated that its strong malware is designed not to target civilian society members but to probe severe criminals. It has stated it has no link to the leaked database reviewed by the Pegasus Project and also the tens of thousands of numbers included do not target NSO customers. It has also firmly disputed that Pegasus Spyware has always targeted Macron.
In a statement released on Thursday night, NSO said: “We stand by our previous statements regarding French government officials. They are not and have never been Pegasus targets. We won’t comment on anonymous source allegations.”
Furthermore, the authenticity of the allegation was verified by two French individuals with knowledge of the inquiry, but they asked not to be named since they had not been allowed to talk to the media.
"My phone is one of those checked out by the national IT systems security agency, but I haven't yet heard anything about the investigation so I cannot comment at this stage," Wargon told the L'Opinion website Friday.
Mediapart stated that the handsets of the ministers for education (Jean-Michel Blanquer), Jacqueline Gourault, Julien Denormandie, Emmanuelle Wargon, Sébastien Lecornu and others – displayed indications of the virus Pegasus. The report noted that at the time of the allegations of targeting that happened in 2019 and less often in 2020, not all the Ministers had their current roles, but all were Ministers. The phone of the Macron Diplomatic Consultants at the Elysee Palace was also targeted.
The Élysée Palace also stated that it would not comment on “long and complex investigations which are still ongoing”.
The Prosecutor's Office refused to comment or to clarify whether or whether not the ministers' phone hacking had been found, stating that the investigation was subject to judicial confidentiality regulations. Although since the end of July, when the palace officials notified prudence, the Élysée has not reacted to the Pegasus affair and said that “no certainty at this stage”.