According to the nonprofit Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto, spyware from NSO Group was used in hacking Polish and various other opposing politicians.
The Citizen Lab, partnered with Associated Press, disclosed on Thursday that Senator Krzysztof Brejza of Poland was hacked by the Pegasus spyware between April 26 and October 23, 2019, around 33 times.
Brejza aided in operating the opposition movement against Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s right-wing government, which is presently in force.
Doctored images from the smartphone of Brejza falsely incriminated him in numerous scandals and were disseminated by multiple government-backed news platforms. Eventually, Morawiecki won the elections.
Brejza was quite horrified when he discovered the hack as he had always gained popularity as a hardliner who was totally against corruption.
Breaching into his phone would easily provide anyone with the details about the strategy of his campaign and the whistleblowers of corruption who put their complete faith in him.
The Citizen Lab also revealed earlier this week that the Pegasus spyware was also used to hack into the smartphones of one of the lawyers of Brejza’s party Civic Platform, named Roman Giertych, and Ewa Wrzosek, a Polish prosecutor.
Even though the government of Poland has denied any kind of involvement in the hacking, the member states of the EU have started to speak about the incident.
Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch parliamentarian, tweeted on Wednesday:
“EU governments using spyware on political opponents and critics is unacceptable. EU Commission has to stop ducking the issue. Such practices have no place in the EU and must be banned,”
EU governments using spyware on political opponents and critics is unacceptable. @EU_Commission has to stop ducking the issue. Such practices have no place in the EU and must be banned. @moritzkoerner @POLITICOEurope https://t.co/wexyxXTF7H
— Sophie in 't Veld (@SophieintVeld) December 22, 2021
This news further revealed multiple disastrous stories of the NSO Group. Citizen Lab informed Washington Post and provided them with evidence that the UAE used Pegasus to monitor and track the smartphone of the deceased Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s wife, Hanan Elatr. Her phone was hacked a few months before her husband’s assassination.
It was denied by the NSO Group’s chief executive named Shalev Hulio that Khashoggi and his wife weren’t the targets of any Pegasus clients. NSO Group further denied that Elatr wasn’t even targeted, despite the latest forensic information.
This story was discovered after Citizen Lab revealed to The Guardian that Kamel Jendoubi, a UN war crimes investigator, was hacked by Pegasus while he was the Group of Eminent Experts in Yemen’s chairman.
Citizen Lab has been working with multiple news platforms to reveal the scale of the work of NSO Group. It was uncovered in July by the Pegasus Project that the spyware of the NSO Group was used to target 85 human rights activists, around 65 business executives, approximately 600 politicians. and 189 journalists.
Six Palestinian human rights activists were also targeted by the spy agency of the Israeli government. The ruler of the UAE used Pegasus to spy on his ex-wife and a few British lawyers.
Multiple government officials targeted include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Iraqi President Barham Salih. Cabinet ministers from Pakistan, Egypt, and other countries were also targeted.
Citizen Lab’s senior researcher, John Scott-Railton, revealed that the Pegasus’s Polish victims were quite notable since they suggest that Pegasus is being utilized in the European democracy for political purposes.
As per Scott-Railton, the case of Khashoggi reinforces the knowledge that there were Pegasus infections in the close circle of the Washington Post’s reporter before his murder. He further mentioned that he undermines the credibility of the NSO Group as they contradict the statements they have made directly.
All these stories revealed that Pegasus was profusely used to impact human rights and politics and targeted multiple journalists and activists worldwide.
According to Scott-Railton:
“Pegasus is also being used to erode key international institutions and the people who work at them. Taken together, alongside NSO’s dismal recent economic news, the picture is of a company that behaves recklessly and ignored the tremendous harms it was causing,”
He further mentioned:
“The problem extends far beyond NSO. NSO has just made itself the poster child for how bad the industry is.”
Previously, the smartphones of the employees of the US State Department were also hacked by the NSO firm. Smartphone giant Apple also sued the group for spyware attacks on iPhones.