Macron changes phone after reports of Pegasus spyware

Macron changes phone after being targeted by Pegasus spyware
2 min read
23 July, 2021
Emmanuel Macron changed his phone and number after reports that he was among some 50,000 targets of the Pegasus spyware made in Israel.
French President Emmanuel Macron [L] was allegedly targeted with the spyware [Getty]

French President Emmanuel Macon has changed his mobile phone and number after reports that he was targeted by Israeli-made spyware.

Macron ordered an overhaul of security protocols to protect sensitive information against Pegasus, a spyware that infects iPhones and Android devices to extract messages, photos and emails, record phone calls and covertly activate microphones and cameras.

While it is not clear whether the software had ever been successfully installed on the French president's phone, his number was among 50,000 contacts believed to have been targeted by clients of NSO Group, the creator of Pegasus, since 2016.

Among those featured in the list which was leaked to the press are President Baram Salih of Iraq, South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, and the current prime ministers of Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco.

Targets also include activists, journalists, officials, politicians and business figures from dozens of countries working for prominent organisations, including Amnesty International.

It is not clear how many phones on the list were successfully hacked.

The decision to replace Macron's mobile came on the heels of an urgent national security meeting called by the president on Thursday to discuss the spyware. Evidence of an attempted hacking was also found on the device of former environment minister and close Macron ally Francois de Rugy, with the attempt allegedly originating in Morocco.

Morocco has filed defamation claims against Amnesty International and a French NGO who claim its intelligence services used the Pegasus mobile phone spyware against dozens of French journalists.

Hungary, Israel and Algeria have launched criminal investigations into the use of Pegasus.

The NSO Group has claimed the software is intended for use against criminals and has been made available only to countries with good human rights records.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are alleged to be among the countries that acquired the Pegasus software, but have dismissed allegations they used Israeli-supplied Pegasus malware to spy on journalists and human rights activists.