France begins NSO probe, new claims emerge

A French official says President Emmanuel Macron takes the NSO spyware reports
A French official says President Emmanuel Macron takes the NSO spyware reports "very seriously".

Following a series of incendiary revelations about the alleged use of the Pegasus spyware software by multiple governments, France has announced it is officially investigating the allegations.

President Emmanuel Macron was taking the matter "very seriously," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told the France Inter radio station on Thursday.

Macron chaired a special meeting of the Defence and National Security Council on Thursday to discuss the affair, a source close to the presidency said.

Macron and several members of the French government have been identified as likely targets of 2019 spy attacks, according to French daily Le Monde.

One of Macron's mobile phone numbers was reportedly found on a list of potential spying targets drawn up by the Moroccan intelligence services.

Macron has changed his mobile phone and phone number in light of the Pegasus spyware case, a presidency official said on Thursday.

Morocco has denied any involvement that it has spied on any public figures.

It reportedly instructed a lawyer to file a defamation case in a French court against two groups on Thursday.

The Elysee Palace was quick to point out that its inclusion on a list did not mean that Macron's phone had actually been compromised.

However, if the reported facts were true, they were "of course very serious."

Le Monde also reported that the list of potential targets also included about 30 journalists and heads of media companies in France.

Further allegations have been emerging around the world.

On Thursday, the daughter of Paul Rusesabagina, the Rwandan activist made famous by the film Hotel Rwanda, said she was among those hacked.

Carine Kanimba's conversations with the Belgian foreign minister, members of the Rwandan parliament, officials at the US State Department and her father's lawyers had all been intercepted since January, she told the DPA news agency on Thursday.

Rusesabagina is a prominent critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

In April, Kanimba allowed an editor of the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung to have her phone screened for spyware, Kanimba said.

According to Amnesty International, the authorities in Rwanda may have used Pegasus to monitor more than 3500 activists, journalists and politicians.

The spyware, made by the Israeli company NSO, is designed to identify security weaknesses in smart phones in order to access the data stored on them.

In an investigation carried out by a consortium of journalists, 50,000 telephone numbers were analysed with the assistance of Amnesty International and the anti-censorship organisation Forbidden Stories.

According to the reports, NSO customers were able to select telephone numbers they wanted to hack with the spyware.

NSO has so far denied all the allegations made against it.

with AFP

Australian Associated Press