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PEGASUS malware resurfaces in Spain

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Israeli company, NSO maker of Pegasus spyware. (File Image, The Indian Express)

Outrage is mounting in Spain over a hacking scandal in which more than 200 Mobile phone numbers in the country had been hacked.

The cell phones numbers of the Spanish Prime Minister and Defence Minister were among the targeted numbers.

Authorities have detected the Pegasus spyware on the mobile phones of Pedro Sanchez and Margarita Robles; Prime Minister Sanchez's mobile phone was breached twice in May 2021 and Defence Minister Robles's device was targeted once the following month.

All in all, 2.6 gigabytes of information was stolen from the Spanish Prime Minister's phone during the first attack and 150 megabytes during the second, while nine gigabytes was stolen from the Defence Minister.

Spain's highest criminal court opened a probe into how the mobile phones of Sanchez and Robles were infected. The judge described the hacking as "illicit and external attacks".

The illegal tapping of these phones has been proven in an ongoing verification that will reach all members of the government.

We are reporting facts that are verified and reliable, not assumptions. These are extremely serious facts that confirmed that intrusions have taken place in areas outside Spanish institution and outside the law.

Felix Bolano, Spanish Minister for Presidency

The mobile number selections, believed to have been made by Morocco, occurred in 2019.

Spain's socialist led government, is also under pressure to explain why devices belonging to dozens of people connected to the separatist movement in the north eastern Catalonia region were infected with the Pegasus spyware.

The regional Catalan Government has accused authorities in Madrid of spying on separatists.

So the Israeli Mossad is at a constant intelligence gathering operation against any client that is foolish enough to buy their materials and this is being confirmed in the Spanish Prime Minister situation.

 So the CIA, MI6, and the Mossad, have always entertained a mutual intelligence sharing operation and this revelation of the Spanish Prime Minister is just another example of that.

Scott Bennet, Former US Army Psychological Warfare Officer

Pegasus is a type of malware developed by the Israeli technology and cyber-arms company, the NSO group. Unlike most spyware, Pegasus doesn't require its victims to download it.

Once installed. It allows NSO’s clients to take control of the device, to activate the camera and the microphones, see geo-location data, and read the content of messages.

The company claims the spyware is used for counterterrorism purposes, but it's been accused of helping facilitate authoritarianism.

While the Israelis are notorious for the development of technology that they can sell to dictatorial regimes, like Saudi Arabia, like (the) United States, like the United Kingdom, as well as others, but they always install a backdoor as well.

Scott Bennet, Former US Army Psychological Warfare Officer

There are now serious concerns within the European Union about the spyware. In 2020, a list of 50,000 Phone Numbers was leaked and then analyzed by international media and rights groups revealing that the list contained the numbers of leading opposition politicians, human rights activist journalists, lawyers and other politicians.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron is believed to have been on a list of potential Pegasus targets and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned that his office may have been targeted in 2020 and 2021.

It has now emerged that the phone of Jamal Khashoggi wife was also infected with the spyware. Khashoggi was a dissident Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered at the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul in 2018.

The European Data Protection Supervisor, the European authority on data protection, is already advocating for the prohibition of the development and deployment of espionage programs with capabilities such as Pegasus.

I think what we're going to see is the revelation the Israelis are spying on everyone with the blessing of the United States.

And you're going to see a departure from their technology and the country seeking more solid and safer communication channels such as that which is being offered by Russia, China and India.

Scott Bennet, Former US Army Psychological Warfare Officer

The NSO group has already been placed on the US blacklist. The decision reflects deep concern about the impact of spyware on US national security interests.


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