Five French Ministers Possibly Targeted by Israeli NSO's Pegasus Spyware, Report Says

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President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris, this week.
President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Elysee Palace in Paris, this week.Credit: Stefano Rellandini / AFP

Five French ministers were potentially targeted in 2019 by spyware built by Israel's cyberespionage firm NSO Group, French investigative journal Mediapart reported Thursday, though it remains unknown whether any devices were successfully infected with the software.

In its report, Mediapart cited a “confidential document” from August, detailing the results of an examination conducted the month before on cabinet members' cellphones. Five, according to the report, had “suspicious marks,” suggesting at least an attempt to infect the device with Pegasus spyware.

Paris had been up in arms after the Pegasus Project investigation – published in July and led by the nonprofit Forbidden Stories together with Amnesty and 17 media outlets, including Haaretz – suggested a phone used by French President Emmanuel Macron was also selected for potential targeting, very likely by the Moroccan intelligence services, which are known to be an NSO client.

An aerial view shows the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel, in July.Credit: AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The Mediapart report did not indicate what these marks were, and said the document did not determine whether the devices were actually infected.

Those whose cellphones were targeted include Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, Territorial Development Minister Jacqueline Gourault, former Overseas Minister Sebastien Lecornu, Housing Minister Emmanuelle Wargon and Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie.

The report also said that the phone used by an unnamed member of Macron’s diplomatic team also contained traces of Pegasus.

The Elysée told Mediapart it would not comment on the matter, as a formal investigation in still underway.

In August, Le Monde reported that a French intelligence service confirmed that three phones belonging to journalists in the country were targeted and showed signs of either the Pegasus spyware or attempts to have it installed.

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