Macron calls national security meeting to discuss Pegasus spyware

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PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron has called a national security meeting on Thursday morning to discuss the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware after reports about its use in France emerged this week, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
“The president is following this subject closely and takes it very seriously,” Attal told France Inter radio, adding that the unscheduled national security meeting would be “dedicated to the Pegasus issue and the question of cybersecurity”.
NSO: Macron not targeted by Pegasus spyware
An official at Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group said on Wednesday that the firm’s controversial Pegasus spyware tool was not used to target French President Emmanuel Macron.
The comments came as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged Israel to suspend exports of the spying technology after heads of state — including Macron — and scores of journalists and rights activists featured on a list of alleged targets selected for potential surveillance.
We can “specifically come out and say for sure that the president of France, Macron, was not a target,” Chaim Gelfand, chief compliance officer at NSO Group, told a news channel.
But he also alluded to “some cases brought up that we are not so comfortable with”, noting that in such circumstances the firm “usually approaches the customer and has a whole long discussion… to try to understand what were his legitimate reasons, if any, to use the system.”
Gelfand’s comments were broadcast on the same day that RSF head Christophe Deloire called on Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “to impose an immediate moratorium on surveillance technology exports, until a protective regulatory framework has been established”.
Deloire’s call came after a list was leaked of some 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been chosen by clients of NSO Group. The numbers purportedly included those of Macron, and 13 other heads of state.
Pegasus can hack into mobile phones without a user knowing, enabling clients to read every message, track a user’s location and tap into the phone’s camera and microphone.
NSO has contracts with 45 countries, and says Israel’s defence ministry must approve its deals. The company does not identify its customers.
However, rights group Amnesty International and the Paris-based organisation Forbidden Stories that obtained the list, said NSO’s government clients include Bahrain, India, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.
Reporting by media outlets including The Guardian, Le Monde and The Washington Post found that nearly 200 journalists from organisations including AFP were on the list.
“Enabling governments to install spyware that is used in practice to monitor hundreds of journalists and their sources throughout the world poses a major democratic problem,” Deloire said.
NSO, a giant of Israeli tech, is based in Herzliya north of Tel Aviv, and has 850 employees.


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