Pegasus Affair: Macron changes phone, reinforces security in wake of spyware allegations

·2-min read

French President Emmanuel Macron has changed his phone and phone number in light of allegations that Pegasus spyware might have targeted him, a presidency official said Thursday, the same day Macron held an emergency meeting on cybersecurity at the Élysée Palace.

Macron has demanded "a strengthening of all security protocols" regarding sensitive means of communication, the Élysée said.

The president held an emergency cybersecurity meeting Thursday to weigh possible government action after reports that his mobile phone and those of government ministers may have been targeted by spyware.

Macron changes his phones regularly and is “taking the matter very seriously”, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Thursday on France-Inter radio.

A global media consortium reported this week that Pegasus spyware made by Israeli company NSO Group may have been used to target politicians, activists and journalists in several countries.

French newspaper Le Monde, a member of the consortium, reported that a Moroccan security agency had the mobile phones of Macron and 15 then members of the French government on a list of potential targets of the spyware in 2019.

Morocco’s government has denied wrongdoing and has threatened legal action over the "unfounded" spyware allegations.

An official with NSO, Haim Gelfand, told Israel-based i24News on Wednesday that Macron was not a target. Gelfand said the company would review some of the cases that were revealed by the media and press clients about how they are using Pegasus. He said the company follows a careful process before deciding to whom to sell its systems.

Investigations are under way to determine whether the spyware was actually installed on the phones or whether data was retrieved, Attal said. He stressed the importance of broader cybersecurity efforts to protect public facilities, such as hospitals, that have been targeted by malicious software in the past.

Prosecutors in Paris said Tuesday they had opened a probe into allegations that Moroccan intelligence services used the Israeli-made malware Pegasus to spy on several French journalists.

The investigation will examine 10 different charges, including whether there was a breach of personal privacy, fraudulent access to personal electronic devices and any criminal associations among those involved.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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