Spanish Prime Minister’s phone ‘targeted by Pegasus spyware’ | Spain

The Spanish government said the mobile phones of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Defense Minister Margarita Robles were infected last year with Pegasus spyware that its manufacturers claim is only available to state agencies.

In a hastily held press conference Monday morning, Presidential Minister Felix Bolanos said Sanchez’s phone was targeted in May and June 2021, while Robles was targeted in June 2021. Data was extracted from both phones.

Bolaños said “illegal” and “external” targeting will be investigated by Spain’s highest criminal court, Audiencia Nacional, adding that targeting must be from outside because any such monitoring in Spain He would ask for judicial permission.

“These facts have been confirmed and cannot be refuted,” said Bolanos. “I don’t think now is the time to get involved in assuming or guessing about what the motive might be.”

The phones of other members of the government are being checked to determine if they have also been targeted.

The allegations come as the Spanish government faces questions about how the alleged Pegasus – sold by the Israeli NSO Group – was sold. It was used to monitor dozens of members of the Catalan independence movementincluding the head of the northeastern Spanish region, Pere of Aragon, and three of his predecessors.

Last month, Aragon told the Guardian that the alleged targeting, exposed by cybersecurity experts at Citizen Lab, constitutes a violation of individual rights, an attack on democracy, and a threat to the political opposition.

The Catalan regional government has pointed the finger at Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI), which insists its operations are under the supervision of the Supreme Court and that it is acting “in full accordance with the legal system, and with absolute respect for applicable laws”.

The Spanish government has promised an internal investigation into the CNI into the alleged targeting of Catalan activists, while the Spanish Ombudsman has also opened an independent investigation.

Aragon Robles – who oversees the CNI as defense minister – has called for his resignation, and his leftist Republican party in Catalonia has threatened to withhold its support for the government in the national parliament.

In a statement, the Catalan president said: “Any political espionage is very dangerous. We reported on the espionage a few days ago but the Spanish government gave no explanation. When it was spying on Catalan institutions and the independence movement, everything was silence and excuses. With this, everything is moving very quickly. Responsibility must be determined immediately. A thorough and independent investigation remains urgent and responsibility must be taken.”

In a statement, the NSO Group said it would investigate “any suspected misuse” of its software, and would cooperate with any government investigation.

“Although we have not seen any information regarding the alleged misuse and are not aware of the details of this specific case, the consistent position of the NSO on these issues is that the use of electronic tools in order to monitor politicians, dissidents, activists and journalists is a serious misuse of any technology and is contrary to the intended use for such important tools,” a spokesperson said.

“NSO is a software provider; the company neither operates the technology nor is privy to the data collected. The company does not know and cannot know who the targets of its customers are, however it implements measures to ensure that these systems are used for authorized uses only.”

The NSO Group claims that Pegasus is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists. A joint investigation by the Guardian and El País two years ago established that the president of the Catalan regional parliament and at least two independence supporters were He warned against using spyware to target them.

NSO . group was It was blacklisted by the United States in November 2021three months after a Union of Journalists Working with the French non-profit group Forbidden Stories has revealed multiple cases of journalists and activists who have been hacked by foreign governments using spyware, including US citizens.

The Guardian and other members of the consortium also revealed that Phone numbers for Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and almost his entire government It appeared in a leaked list of individuals who were selected as potential targets for surveillance.

NSO said its spyware is being used by foreign government agents to target dangerous criminals. It also denied that any of its agents had targeted Macron or any French government official.