French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly changed his phone after reports that he was among a group of politicians, journalists and human rights activists targeted with Israeli-made spyware called Pegasus.
Le Monde reported this week that Macron and 14 French ministers were flagged for potential surveillance by Morocco, though authorities in the North African country have denied using Pegasus and insisted the allegations were false, according to the BBC.
The spyware allows users to extract messages, photos and emails from iPhones and Android devices, calls on which can be recorded, while the microphones and cameras can be secretly activated.
It was unclear if the software was ever installed on Macron’s phone, but his number was among a list of 50,000 contacts believed to be targeted by clients of Pegasus’ creator, Israeli-based NSO Group, since 2016, according to the BBC.
NSO official Haim Gelfand told Israel-based i24News on Wednesday that Macron was not a target.
Others reportedly include Iraqi President Baram Salih, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the prime ministers of Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco.
An investigation by the Washington Post and several media partners found that 23 phones showed signs that they were hacked and another 14 showed signs of attempted hacks using the Pegasus software.
The spyware can be sent in a message, but may not even need to be clicked on to hack a phone — leading one cyberattack expert to call it “eloquently nasty.”
The news outlets reportedly obtained a list dating back to 2016 of more than 50,000 phone numbers as part of their probe into Pegasus.
Authorities in Hungary, Israel and Algeria have begun investigations into the use of Pegasus to determine whether any crimes had been committed.
NSO Group — which has denied any wrongdoing — said the software is intended for use against criminals and terrorists and is made available only to military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies in countries with good human rights records, according to the BBC.
The private technology firm said it does not routinely investigate who is targeted but has systems in place to vet the clients with whom it works, the outlet reported.
With Post wires