Brussels (Brussels Morning) The Paris prosecutor’s office opened a probe on Tuesday into allegations that two French journalists were targeted by the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware. Media outlets participating in a collaborative investigation into the software’s use believe that it was also sold and used by the Moroccan intelligence agencies.
The Pegasus spyware is designed to hack into a target’s mobile phone giving those applying using it near-total access to the phone’s content, files and messages, as well as potentially turning the phone into a recording device.
The software was developed by the Israeli private company NSO Group, which claims its spyware is sold only to governments with a legitimate need to combat terrorism and crime. Global rights watchdog Amnesty International, on the other hand, insists that the spyware was regularly used by governments to spy on opposition members, journalists and activists.
The collaborative investigation conducted by 17 international media organisations has been releasing a growing list of more than 1,000 potential targets – recovered from a leaked document. It remains unclear, however, whether all targets were actually infected with Pegasus software. Only several dozen cases have actually been confirmed as having been infected.
The list of targets also includes a number of French journalists, working for Le Monde, Agence France-Presse, France24, the investigative website Mediapart and other outlets. The prosecutor’s office acted on a legal complaint filed by Mediapart on Monday. The satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné has announced it too is filing a complaint.
The complaint claims that the founder Edwy Plenel and one of the website’s journalists were targeted by Pegasus software used by Moroccan intelligence services, something Morocco vehemently denies. According to the country’s officials, Morocco has “never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices”.
The NSO Group reacted on Monday, claiming that the leaked list is not factual, and that the international cooperative’s investigation is full of “wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories”.