French President changes phone after reports of wide-scale hack

French President Emmanuel Macron has changed his telephone number, replaced his phone and ordered an overhaul of his security procedures in response to reports that he was among tens of thousands of politicians, activists, business leaders and journalists targeted by almost untraceable, military-grade spyware, BBC News reported.

The spyware, called Pegasus, enables users to infiltrate phones without being detected in order to record calls, control cameras, and extract messages and emails. The company that makes the spyware, the Israel-based NSO Group, says it is only sold to “vetted government agencies” to be used against major criminals and terrorists, the Associated Press reported.

Macron is one of a number of world leaders named in a recent leak of 50,000 contacts alleged to have been Pegasus targets, including the prime ministers of Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco and the presidents of Iraq and South Africa. It’s unclear if every contact on the leaked list was hacked, according to BBC News.

Investigations into the use of Pegasus have been launched in Israel, Hungary, and Algeria to determine if any crimes have been committed. A senior lawmaker in Israel, where the the NSO Group is based, said a parliamentary committee may examine spyware export restrictions, according to the Reuters news agency.

The NSO Group has been accused of enabling repressive regimes to hack into the private phones of innocent people, like the close contacts of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The company has denied any wrongdoing and said it has systems in place to vet the clients it works with. But it says it does not routinely monitor which individuals its clients choose to target. If NSO receives reports that a client has used Pegasus inappropriately, it can investigate and unilaterally shut down the software, Reuters reported.

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