Macron changes phone and number, reinforces security in light of Pegasus case

Photo: EPA President Emmanuel Macron (C) flanked by PM Jean Castex (4L) and other government members at a national security meeting to discuss Pegasus spyware, Elysee Palace, Paris, 22 July 2021.

French President Emmanuel Macron has changed his phone and phone number in light of allegations that Pegasus spyware might have targeted him, a presidency official said on Thursday. The same day Macron held an emergency cybersecurity meeting to weigh possible government action after reports that his mobile phone and those of government ministers may have been targeted by spyware, news wires reported.

Macron has demanded "a strengthening of all security protocols" regarding sensitive means of communication, the Élysée said. The Macron changes his phones regularly and is “taking the matter very seriously”, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Thursday on France-Inter radio.

A global media consortium reported this week that Pegasus spyware made by Israeli company NSO Group may have been used to target politicians, activists and journalists in several countries. French newspaper Le Monde, a member of the consortium, reported that a Moroccan security agency had the mobile phones of Macron and 15 then members of the French government on a list of potential targets of the spyware in 2019. Morocco’s government has denied wrongdoing and has threatened legal action over the "unfounded" spyware allegations.

An official with NSO, Haim Gelfand, told Israel-based i24News on Wednesday that Macron was not a target. Gelfand said the company would review some of the cases that were revealed by the media and press clients about how they are using Pegasus. He said the company follows a careful process before deciding to whom to sell its systems.

Investigations are under way to determine whether the spyware was actually installed on the phones or whether data was retrieved, Attal said. He stressed the importance of broader cybersecurity efforts to protect public facilities, such as hospitals, that have been targeted by malicious software in the past.

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