Mobile phones of five French ministers and President Emmanuel Macron’s diplomatic adviser were infected with the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware, sources told AFP on Friday.
According to the Mediapart report on Friday, French security services detected the software during telephone inspections with intrusions expected in 2019 and 2020.
In July, after leaking a list of some 50 000 potential monitoring targets in the world, the Israeli company NSO Group was able to turn to a phone camera or microphone and collect its data.
At the time one of the telephone calls of Macron and many French cabinet ministers was on the leaky lists of potential targets, the media consortium, including The Washington Post, The Guardian and France’s Le Monde, reported.
On Friday, the French authorities refused to comment, according to France 24.
The five ministers targeted are Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, Territorial Cohesion Minister Jacqueline Gourault, Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie, Housing Minister Emmanuelle Wargon and Overseas Territories Minister Sebastien Lecornu, Mediapart said.
The veracity of the report has been confirmed by two French sources with knowledge of the investigation. They requested the writers not to identify them by names because they were not allowed to speak to media.
“My phone is one of those checked out by the national IT systems security agency, but I haven’t yet heard anything about the investigation so I cannot comment at this stage,” Wargon told the L’Opinion website Friday.
One of her helpers told AFP that “the minister has no access to secrets from the state so we can’t really spy on it.”
In July Le Monde reported that the former environment minister and his close ally François de Rugy on the telephone, supposedly from Morocco, had found evidence of the attempted hacking.
The intelligence services of Morocco have also been accused of hacking French journalists, however they have refused the claims and the kingdom administration has initiated lawsuits on allegations of defamation.