Macron Holds Special Cabinet Meeting on Israeli Spyware Pegasus After Alleged Targeting

French presidency spokesman says progress has been made in the probe into potential Moroccan surveillance of Macron using software by Israeli company NSO

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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks on his mobile phone during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels last year.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks on his mobile phone at an EU summit in Brussels last year. A phone associated with Macron was also reportedly selected as a target by an NSO client Credit: John Thys,AP

French President Emmanuel Macron held an emergency cybersecurity meeting Thursday to weigh possible government action after reports that his cellphone and those of government ministers may have been targeted by spyware.

Macron changes his phones regularly and is “taking the matter very seriously,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Thursday on France-Inter radio.

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Macron has changed his phone and phone number in light of the Pegasus spyware case, a presidency official said on Thursday, in one of the first concrete actions announced in relation to the scandal.

The official said there was no confirmation Macron's phone had indeed been hacked. "It's just additional security," the official told Reuters.

A global media consortium reported this week that Pegasus spyware made by Israeli company NSO Group may have been used to target politicians, activists and journalists in several countries. French newspaper Le Monde, a member of the consortium, reported that a Moroccan security agency had the cellphones of Macron and 15 then-members of the French government on a list of potential targets of the spyware in 2019. Morocco’s government denied wrongdoing.

Investigations are under way to determine whether the spyware was actually installed on the phones or whether data was retrieved, Attal said. He stressed the importance of broader cybersecurity efforts to protect public facilities, such as hospitals, that have been targeted by malicious software in the past.

An official with NSO, Haim Gelfand, told Israel-based i24News on Wednesday that Macron was not a target. He said the company would review some cases that were revealed by the consortium, and press clients about how they are using the system. He said the company follows a careful process before deciding who to sell systems to.

"It is important that hacking software does not get into the wrong hands," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday when asked about the Pegasus spyware case.

She also told reporters that countries without any judicial oversight of how spying software is used should not have it.

Morocco has denied buying or using the Pegasus spyware licensed by Israel-based NSO group after Amnesty and the group of 17 international media organizations reported that it had targeted thousands of phone numbers.

The company has denied the allegations in the report.

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