Pegasus spyware is used by at least five European member states. Its developer, NSO Group, is under investigation by the European Union. The parliament wants to know if and how the spyware is used in Europe.
In 2020, over 70 journalists proved that several governments use Pegasus to eavesdrop on journalists, activists and politicians. The report accuses government agencies in Hungary, Poland and more than 30 other countries. NSO Group, the spyware’s developer, initially denied the accusations. According to the company, Pegasus customers were extensively screened to prevent abuse. NSO Group promised to start its own investigation, but that proved to be insufficient.
The European Parliament wants to independently find out if and how the spyware is used in Europe. Parliamentarian Sophie in ‘t Veld proposed to investigate Pegasus and NSO Group with an action group. In February, a majority of the parliament agreed. In March, Brussels set up a research commission. Meanwhile, the commission has been monitoring the use of Pegasus in each member state.
As part of the investigation, NSO Group was called to the carpet. The European Parliament questioned the company during a recent hearing. NSO Group acknowledged that Pegasus is used by at least five European Member States.
Chaim Gelfand, NSO Group’s lawyer, said that the company will not reveal the identities of its customers. Pegasus has more than 50 customers worldwide. According to NSO Group, the software is exclusively provided to governments. Individuals and private organisations do not qualify.
Furthermore, NSO Group claimed that the software is utilized 12,000 to 13,000 times annually. According to independent researchers from Amnesty International, the real number is closer to 50,000. Finally, NSO Group shared that 20 customers are under investigation for a possible breach of contractual terms.
The software has recently been found on the smartphones of high officials, including the Prime Ministers of Spain and the United Kingdom. Pegasus also turned up in the devices of Catalan politicians and activists.