New Delhi: French President Emmanuel Macron, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are among 14 foreign leaders whose phone numbers were allegedly targeted using the Pegasus spyware, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Among the foreign leaders are three presidents, 10 prime ministers, and the King of Morocco. Overall, the list included numbers of more than 600 government officials and politicians across 34 countries.
The data leak is a list of phone numbers that, since 2016, are believed to have been selected as those of people of interest by government clients of NSO Group, an Israeli company whose spyware Pegasus enables the remote surveillance of smartphones.
According to The Washington Post, none of the heads of states and government offered their smartphones for forensic testing that might have revealed infection by Pegasus.
In a statement Tuesday, NSO Group said: “We can confirm that at least three names in your inquiry Emmanuel Macron, King Mohammed VI, and [World Health Organization Director General] Tedros Ghebreyesus — are not, and never have been, targets or selected as targets of NSO Group customers”.
Earlier in the week, it was revealed that in India, phones of two serving union ministers, three opposition leaders, one constitutional authority, current and former heads of security organisations, and 40 senior journalists and activists from India were allegedly targeted using Pegasus.
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit journalism organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to the list and shared it with 17 media organisations across the world as part of the Pegasus project, a media consortium.
Also read: Rahul Gandhi, IT Minister, Prashant Kishor, Mamata nephew — latest in Pegasus ‘hacking’ list
Three presidents, 10 prime ministers, one king
The three sitting presidents mentioned in the list include France’s Macron, Iraq’s Barham Salih and South Africa’s Ramaphosa.
Daily French newspaper Le Monde, which is part of the international media consortium, reported that the phone number of Macron and 15 members of the French government may have been among potential targets of surveillance. On Tuesday, the Paris prosecutor’s office announced it is investigating the suspected widespread use of the Pegasus spyware.
Out of the 10 prime ministers in the leaked list, three are currently serving their terms. They include Pakistan’s Khan, Egypt’s Mostafa Madbouly and Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani.
Seven former prime ministers, who according to time stamps on the list were placed there while they were still in office, include Yemen’s Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, Uganda’s Ruhakana Rugunda, France’s Édouard Philippe, Kazakhstan’s Bakitzhan Sagintayev, Algeria’s Noureddine Bedoui and Belgium’s Charles Michel.
Khan appeared among a group dominated by numbers in India. On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said they were investigating the possible hacking attempt and would raise the issue at appropriate forums if confirmed.
Meanwhile, Salih and Hariri were grouped among numbers dominated by the UAE and a separate grouping dominated by Saudi numbers.
The list also included King of Morocco Mohammed VI.
Also read: What is Pegasus? The ‘ultimate spyware’ used for surveillance