Macron was not targeted by Pegasus spyware, says NSO executive

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A senior official at Israeli cybersecurity giant NSO argued on Wednesday that French President Emmanuel Macron had not been targeted by his controversial Pegasus software, amid a global spy scandal that prompted the NGO Reporters Without Borders to ask for a moratorium on its sales.

Organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International obtained a list of 50,000 phone numbers, selected by NSO customers since 2016 for potential monitoring, and shared it with a consortium of 17 media outlets that revealed its existence on Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron, King Mohammed VI of Morocco and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are on the list of potential Pegasus targets, as are more than 180 journalists around the world who have allegedly been spied on by different states who had access to the network. software from NSO.

Introduced in a smartphone, Pegasus allows you to retrieve messages, photos and contacts, and to activate the microphones remotely.

A campaign vicious and slanderous against NSO

Chaim Gelfand, a senior group official, told Tel Aviv-based I24 News on Wednesday: I can tell you with certainty that President Macron was not a target. There are some cases that have come to light that bothers us, he added.

We keep trying to figure out all the facts and it's been several years ago, so it takes time to go through everything. The fact that a journalist or activist has been the target of a system like this is automatically considered hijacking., he said.

Shortly after, the group based in Herzliya, a green city north of Tel Aviv, claimed to be the victim of a campaign vicious and slanderous, and announced in a statement that he was no longer going to answer questions from the media on the Pegasus case.

NSO is a technology company. We do not operate the systems or have access to the data of our customers, but they are nonetheless obliged to provide us with this information in the event of inquiries., added the group saying that the fact that a name appears on the list of 50,000 doesn't necessarily mean he was the target of Pegasus.

Call to action from the Israeli authorities

The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday called on the Israeli government to immediately impose a moratorium on the sale of this spyware.

Not allowing to protect computer systems, but to infiltrate them, Pegasus is considered an offensive cybersecurity product and must therefore obtain the green light from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to be sold to third countries, like a armed.

Software developed by Israeli firms like NSO's Pegasus clearly implicates the State of Israel. Even if the Israeli authorities played only an indirect role, they cannot escape their responsibility., RSF said in a statement.

We call on (Israeli) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to immediately impose a moratorium on exports of surveillance technology until a protective regulatory framework is established., said RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire.

Contacted by AFP, Mr. Bennett's office did not respond. A former defense minister who made his fortune in high technology before entering politics, the latter defended this booming sector in Israel on Wednesday without commenting on the NSO file.

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