Spyware scandal hits upper echelons as Spanish PM’s phone targeted

Madrid, May 2 (EFE).- A spyware scandal that has rocked Spanish politics widened Monday after intelligence reports found that mobile phones belonging to prime minister Pedro Sánchez and defense minister Margarita Robles had also been tapped by the software Pegasus.

The revelations come amid an ongoing internal intelligence probe ordered after a report by research group Citizen Lab found that dozens of senior Catalan officials, including elected regional leaders and separatist activists, were hacked by Pegasus, spyware developed by Israeli company NSO Group.

Sánchez’s phone was targeted twice in May 2021 while Robles’ was hacked in June that same year, spokesman for the presidency, Félix Bolaños, told a press conference on Monday, citing intelligence reports from Spain’s National Cryptologic Center.

“The illegal intrusion in these mobile phones has been confirmed in the framework of a verification process that is ongoing and will reach all the members of the government,” Bolaños said.

“These are verified and extremely serious facts that prove there were intrusions from outside of the state and outside of the law.”

Bolaños added that the use of the spyware had not been authorized by Spain’s judiciary.

The two breaches of Sánchez’s phone extracted 2.6 gigabytes and 130 megabytes respectively while 9 megabytes of data were stolen from the defense minister’s phone.

The case has been referred to Spain’s national court.

Spain’s government, a left-leaning coalition, has ordered the Spanish intelligence agency CNI to conduct an internal investigation into the spyware scandal while Spain’s ombudsman is carrying out a parallel probe.

The original findings by Citizen Lab heaped pressure on already precarious relations between the Sánchez government and Catalan and Basque separatist parties, on which he relies in parliament.

Regional Catalan president Pere Aragonès, who was targeted by the spyware along with two of his predecessors, has pushed the Spanish government for explanations.

NSO Group markets its Pegasus software as counter terrorism and crime tool.

Once installed, Pegasus can track a device’s messages and calls, access passwords, data, camera and microphone. EFE


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