Israeli spyware targets Catalan parliamentary speaker’s cellphone

Madrid (QNN)- The speaker of the Catalan regional parliament demanded Tuesday that the Spanish government launch an official investigation into reports that his cellphone was the target of espionage by Spanish security services using Israeli spyware.

Roger Torrent and at least two other pro-independence supporters were warned that they were targeted last year in what experts said was a “possible case of domestic political espionage” in Europe, according to an investigation by the Guardian and El País.

The investigation revealed that the Israeli spyware, Pegasus, exploited a previous vulnerability in WhatsApp software that would have given the operator potential access to everything on the target’s mobile phone – including emails, text messages and photographs. It could also have turned on the phone’s recorder and camera, turning it into a listening device.

EL PAÍS and The Guardian have had access to a certificate emitted by Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity group from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, which exclusively investigated the fault in the messaging application in 2019, that validates the fact that the speaker’s phone was attacked with the NSO spyware. “The investigation identified that the number belongs to Mr Roger Torrent,” the analysis states.

The attackers resorted to a missed WhatsApp call “that did not require a response” to target the politician’s phone, and it contains “ample evidence that could establish that Torrent was monitored.”

Torrent’s phone figures on a list of a hundred or so cases across the world that were compiled by Citizen Lab of “representatives of civil society” who were indiscriminately attacked via the WhatsApp vulnerability, according to the Canadian institution. Citizen Lab states that 130 activists have been unjustified victims of the NSO program since 2016.

Amnesty International had filed a lawsuit against NSO spyware firm, demanding to revoke the security export license of the Israeli firm, however, an Israeli court rejected it.

The Israeli firm is accused of selling the spyware for governments that use it to spy on human rights activists, journalists, and public figures. Reports revealed that Pegasus has been used by Saudi authorities to spy on journalist Jamal khashoggi before murdering him. Reports also revealed that it was used to hack the cell phone of Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

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