Two years ago, a joint investigation by the Guardian and El País revealed the apparent use of Pegasus spyware to target senior pro-independence Catalan politicians. Pegasus is a spyware created by the NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance organization, which allows the user to gain access to everything on a target phone including emails, text messages, phone calls, contacts list and pictures, turn on the camera and use it as a voice recorder.
According to the NSO Group, the product is only sold to governments in order for them to track down criminals and terrorists.
Pegasus Inside Spain
Spain’s Socialist-led Coalition government recently announced that it had fired Paz Esteban, the head of the national intelligence centre (CNI). A report was published stating that at least 63 people who are connected with the Catalan Independence Movement, including the current regional president, Pere Aragonès, were targeted or infected with the spyware. The report also stated that among the targets were lawyers, journalists, politicians, civil society activists and some government officials.
Who Is Spying And Why?
Back in June 2020, it was reported that at least three senior pro-independence Catalan politicians had been told their phones had been targeted using Pegasus.
Spain’s Defense Ministry, who is also in charge of the CNI, has refused to comment on the meeting with CNI director Paz Esteban, because its contents are considered classified.
“They (the CNI) admit to spying, but say that it was carried out against far fewer people than those cited by Citizen Lab,” advised Gabriel Rufián, member of a Catalan pro-independence party.
The CNI’s involvement in spying on the Catalan independence movement was recently confirmed when Esteban appeared in front of the secrets committee and allegedly testified that 18 members of the regional independence movement were spied on with judicial approval.
For more information on Pegasus spyware, contact us at Agilient.
Author: Mahdi Kobeissi, Cyber Security Consultant