The database, which was part of the project known as Pegasus, includes the phone numbers of the French President and 13 other heads of state and prime ministers, the Guardian revealed. The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are also included in the list. Other top officials are diplomats, military chiefs, and senior politicians from 34 countries.
Being on the leaked list, which includes the phone numbers of governments that have contracted with NSO Group, does not mean being subject to an attempted or successful hack, the company claimed in response to accusations of human rights abuse linked to its spy software, Pegasus.
NSO, an Israeli developer of electronic spying tools, said that Emmanuel Macron was not a target of its customers. The company also noted that having phone numbers of individuals on the list did not indicate that they were selected for surveillance.
However, the list is widely believed to contain the names of individuals who are persons of interest to state clients of NSO.
In addition, NSO said it always asks its clients to use its services only for legitimate investigations.
The Guardian and other media groups identified the governments that were responsible for the selection of the numbers in the database. They presented the results along with the full list of involved individuals in an article published yesterday.
The Pegasus project participants also said they could not investigate the mobile phones of the heads of state and diplomats, and therefore, confirm the possibility that they were infected with malware and spied upon.
Previously, it was reported that forensic examinations conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab on the phones of human rights activists and journalists revealed that some of them contained traces of Pegasus infection. Out of 67 phones belonging to human rights activists, journalists and lawyers 37 contained traces of Pegasus or an attempted infection.
Shalev Hulio, the chief executive of NSO, said he disputed the leaked data “has any relevance to NSO.” He was very concerned about the reports and promised to investigate them, adding, “We understand that in some circumstances our customers might misuse the system.”