At least five French cabinet members were identified as the targets of the Pegasus spyware, produced by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, as suspicious traces of hacking have been identified in their phones, the French investigative media outlet Mediapart reported.
The alleged targets are Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, Territorial Cohesion Minister Jacqueline Gourault, Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie (served as Minister for Housing from 2018-2020), Minister for Housing Emmanuelle Wargon (served as Ecology Minister from 2018-2020), and Minister of Overseas Territories Sebastien Lecornu.
The French security agencies reportedly identified Pegasus software in their phones from 2019-2020.
Pegasus is a technology offered to various clients, including governments. The Pegasus spyware can switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data.
On July 18, an international inquiry headed by 80 journalists concluded that the technology was used by government-affiliated clients to spy on the phones of 50,000 targets, including at least 600 politicians, 180 journalists, 85 human rights activists, and 65 business people.
The list of the alleged victims includes French President Emmanuel Macron and Moroccan King Mohammed VI, among other world leaders.