Hungarian prosecutors launch investigation into Pegasus scandal as Orban govt implicated in NSO surveillance allegations
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The Hungarian prosecutor general’s office has said it is opening an inquiry into possible criminal offences after a bombshell report claimed Viktor Orban’s government spied on the country’s media using Israeli surveillance tech.
On Thursday, the office of the Hungarian prosecutor said in a statement that an investigation had been ordered into allegations concerning the use of Pegasus snooping software from Israeli firm NSO. The statement states that the aim of the investigation is to find out whether a criminal offense has taken place.
At the weekend, the Guardian reported that Orban’s administration was among the governments which purchased the Pegasus hacking software from Israeli firm NSO. The paper claimed that the Hungarian government had used the software to spy on the country’s media, citing forensic analysis of several mobile devices.
The investigation, headed up by French non-profit journalism organisation Forbidden Stories along with Amnesty International and shared with 17 media organizations, claimed that Pegasus malware had been detected on devices belonging to 10 lawyers, an opposition politician and at least five journalists in Hungary. The malware allows the operator to extract messages, photos and emails once the target device has been infected.
The Guardian said that one of the journalists compromised was Hungarian reporter Szabolcs Panyi, whose device was reportedly repeatedly hacked over a seven-month period in 2019, often after he had made comment requests to Hungarian state officials.
The media partner reports on Pegasus have also highlighted 10 other nations where the software was potentially used for illicit purposes, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. As many as 50,000 people were supposedly targeted by those who purchased the malware.
On Wednesday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said there would be an investigation into the “shameful” accusation that the previous administration of Enrique Peña Nieto spied on him and his associates.
The developer, NSO, has claimed that their technology is only used for counterterrorism intelligence and crime prevention, calling the media reports about Pegasus “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories”.
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