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France’s President replaces phone due to the Pegasus Incident

A presidency official said on Thursday, July 22, in one of the first tangible actions announced concerning the scandal. Emmanuel Macron, President of France, has changed his phone and phone number due to the Pegasus spyware case.

The presidency official said the President has several phone numbers, and this procedure doesn’t mean he’s been spied on, but it’s just extra security.

The President’s security protocols were being adjusted in light of the incident.

Reports on the Pegasus use in hacking smartphones of journalists, human rights activists and government officials in many countries have triggered the public and media worldwide.

“A parliamentary panel may look into spyware export restrictions,” said a senior lawmaker of Pegasus developer NSO Group, situated in Israel. The group denied any exploitation of the spyware and said it’s used to protect against crime and terrorism.

Hours after an emergency cabinet meeting discussing the Pegasus allegations, Attal said they’re taking the matter very seriously.

On Tuesday, July 22, Le Monde newspaper and Radio France reported that the phone of France’s President Macron was on a Moroccan list of potential targets for surveillance. The two media organizations said they couldn’t get a hold of Macron’s phone thus couldn’t verify if he was indeed spied on.

Morocco has denied these allegations.

Olivier Baratelli, a French lawyer for Morocco, said non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories were targeted by the government’s plans of defamation lawsuits in Paris, according to Franceinfo. The two groups and allegedly Morocco had participated in the Pegasus surveillance that targeted French officials with the spyware.

Amid increasing EU concerns, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin that the spyware should be denied to countries unless there’s judicial oversight.

On Thursday, the Hungarian prosecution started an investigation into multiple complaints received following the reports.

In Israel, an inter-ministerial team was appointed to check reports based on an investigation conducted by 17 media organizations that said Pegasus had been a tool in attempted and successful hacks of smartphones as it extracts messages, records call logs and activates microphones.

NSO has rejected the allegations reported by the media organizations as “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.”

Head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, Ram Ben-Barak, said to Israel’s Army Radio statement. They certainly have to look again at this whole subject of licenses granted by the Defence Export Controls Agency (DECA), which the government runs.

“The government-appointed team will conduct its research, and we will be sure to check the findings and report if anything needs a fix,” said Ben-Barak. A former deputy chief of Mossad said that proper use of Pegasus had helped a significant number of people people.

DECA is controlled by Israel’s Defence Ministry and oversees NSO exports. Both the ministry and the agency have said that all foreign clients of Pegasus are vetted governments, and the software is meant to track terrorists or criminals only.

NSO says the identities of people against whom Pegasus was used remain unknown to them. If a complaint of Pegasus misuse was reported, NSO could subsequently confirm the complaint by acquiring the target lists and shutting down that client’s software.

According to news organizations, the phone numbers of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, and other world leaders were also on the list of possible targets.

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