Senior European Parliament Member Targeted as Spyware Abuse Spreads

Senior European Parliament Member Targeted as Spyware Abuse Spreads


BRUSSELS — As the number of politicians, activists and journalists hacked by spyware rises, including prime ministers and prominent dissidents in the European Union, the world’s biggest democratic club, the European Parliament, has In April, they started checking their members’ phones.

In about 200 devices, he hit his first positive.

A high-profile member of the European Parliament from Greece and the leader of a major opposition party there was targeted by malicious spyware last year, an analysis of his phone by parliament’s technology experts revealed. Is.

The politician, Nikos Androlakis, who became the leader of Greece’s third-largest political party, the center-left PASOK-KINAL, submitted his personal mobile device to a new spyware detection tech lab at the European Parliament late last year. . Brussels.

Late last month experts informed Mr Androlakis that, in September 2021, weeks after announcing he would run for the leadership of the opposition party, he had received a text message with a link to Spyware Predator was installed. version of The popular spyware PegasusOn his phone, he had clicked on it.

“Let’s take this friend seriously, there’s something to be gained,” the text said in Greek, followed by the link.

Mr. Androulakis, not recognizing the sender, did not take the bait, and so his phone was not affected.

The discovery of the effort followed cases in Spain, Hungary and Poland, raising concerns that such technology could be used for nefarious political purposes even in a bloc that claims to be the world’s standard bearer for democracy and the rule of law. being used for

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, deferred the matter to national authorities, but is under increasing pressure to act, not least because its own staff have been targeted by spyware. .

In a July 25 letter to a deputy of the European Parliament and seen by The New York Times, the European Commission said its top justice official Didier Randers and his staff had received warnings from Apple in November that its phones has been compromised. The spyware infection alert, and the letter, were first reported by Reuters.

In a letter to Sophie in t Veld, the Dutch lawmaker who chairs the European Parliament’s special committee on spyware, the European Commission said its own experts had not been able to confirm the infection but offered “a number of compromises”. Hints” have been found and they can. I don’t know who was behind them.

“Governments are buying this stuff and it’s very hard for them to resist the temptation to use it for political purposes,” Ms. ‘t Veld said.

“It’s too early to tell what’s going on here, but doesn’t it look good?” He said of the case of Mr. Androlakis. “It doesn’t matter that there was no compromise over the phone, the political reality is that there was an attempt,” he added.

The Greek government said in a statement on Monday that authorities should immediately investigate the matter. He has vehemently denied using Predator.

Predator software is marketed by a company called Citrox, based in North Macedonia. The company’s website is down and no one immediately responded to an email request for comment.

Meta and Google have documented the use of realistic-looking links, mimicking mainstream Greek websites, used to infect personal mobile devices with spyware. The link sent to Mr Androulakis was to one of the fake websites recorded by Meta. The attempt came shortly after a similar attempt to hack the phone of Greek investigative journalist Thanasis Kokakis, although a text message was successful after Mr Kokakis clicked on the link.

The Greek government denied being behind the infection of Mr Kokakis’ phone in April.

Greek opposition leader Mr. Androlakis filed a lawsuit in Greece’s highest court on Monday to try to force the Greek authorities to investigate.

“To reveal who is behind these appalling practices and who they are working for is not a personal matter, it is a democratic duty,” Mr Androlakis said after filing the suit in Athens.

Citizen Labsaid the world’s leading experts on spyware based at the University of Toronto A report on hunting that the governments of Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Madagascar and Saudi Arabia, among others, “are among potential users of Cytrox.” The lab said it is highly unlikely that companies or individuals could purchase the spyware, which costs millions of dollars.

Predator spyware is a less sophisticated version of Pegasus, a software developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, ostensibly to help governments catch criminals and terrorists. The software allows users to monitor every aspect of the target’s phone — including calls, messages, photos and videos. A stalker needs a target to click on a link. Pegasus does not.

Biden administration in November Blacklisted NSO groupAlleging that it knowingly provided spyware that foreign governments have used to target dissidents, human rights activists, journalists and others. at the same time, Apple sued NSO. To prevent it from infecting iPhones; Meta (then Facebook) also sued NSO in 2019 for trying to influence users through WhatsApp.

A forensic investigation last year Through CitizenLab, Amnesty International and an international consortium of media organizations have revealed that several governments, including members of the European Union, deployed Pegasus to spy on their own citizens.

The European Parliament launched an investigation into the claims, and during a visit to Israel it was discovered that at least 14 EU governments had purchased Pegasus, two of which had been terminated by the NSO Group. Chaim Gelfand, NSO’s general counsel and chief compliance officer, said at least one of those terminations was because the government was using the software for “purposes other than fighting serious crime and terrorism.”

“Every customer that we sell to, we do due diligence to assess the rule of law in that country,” Mr. Gelfand told the committee last month.

Citizens of at least six EU countries have been targeted by the spyware. According to a recent study commissioned by European legislators. were among those hacked. Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez, and the country’s defense minister. Other alleged targets include then-Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, the EU’s top justice, Mr Randers, and French President Emmanuel Macron.

I HungaryAccording to investigative news outlet Direkt36, authorities targeted at least 39 people, including journalists, using the Pegasus software. An official investigation concluded that the Hungarian government acted legally.

The Polish government confirmed in January that it had acquired Pegasus, but denied allegations that it was using it to spy on government critics, despite reports from local media. There have been reports of multiple hacks.

In Spain, A Citizen Lab ReportConfirmed by Amnesty International’s forensic research, it has been revealed that several Catalan public figures were targeted by surveillance software, mostly after the failed 2017 referendum on Catalan independence.

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