Pegasus Scandal Rocks the World and HungaryReading Time: < 1 minutes
A major eavesdropping scandal around the Israeli spy software Pegasus made waves in Hungary. An international investigation of 80 journalists from 17 media organisations conducted in 10 countries found that the Hungarian government was most probably among those which acquired the controversial spy software Pegasus from the Israeli surveillance company NSO, and journalists, businessmen and activists were targeted by the program. Two of them work for the investigative news site Direkt36, known for major stories on corruption and the Hungarian government’s ever-closer relationship with China and Russia. The government denies any wrongdoing, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said he did not have any information about the alleged data collection and he was informed by the secret service that no spyware had been purchased. Hungary’s journalist association demanded an immediate explanation from the government and an opposition politician called it Hungary’s Watergate scandal.
The international investigation identified potential NSO clients in 11 countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Togo, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The research was coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a Paris- based non-profit organisation and with the technical support of Amnesty International, which conducted the forensic checks of mobile phones infected with the spyware. Evidence showed that family members of the brutally murdered Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi were also targeted with Pegasus software before and after his murder in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 by Saudi operatives. The investigation also identified journalists working for major international media including the Associated Press, CNN, The New York Times and Reuters as potential targets.