An international report on spyware from Pegasus points to widespread abuse in several countries.
19.7. 13:04 | Updated 19.7. 16:44
On Sunday an international joint survey of major news media was published, according to which the governments of several countries have abused the hacking program of the Israeli NSO Group for Pegasus spying on its critics.
Among the several countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, there was only one European country on the list: Hungary.
The situation of freedom of expression in Hungary has been a matter of concern in the EU for a long time, and the report now confirms suspicions that the government is putting pressure on the independent media.
It seems that the prime minister Viktor Orbánin the government led by Pegasus has had access to the phones of journalists and opposition figures who are critical of the government.
Media The survey went through a leaked list for the Parisian journalists’ association Forbidden Stories and the human rights organization Amnesty International about the telephone numbers that NSO Group customers have wanted information about.
Security experts then analyzed whether the phones on the list had been hacked using Pegasus.
Numerous politicians, human rights activists, journalists and lawyers around the world are believed to have been subjected to espionage.
Pegasus is a highly effective spyware program marketed by the UFO to monitor terrorists and other major criminals.
In practice, the program gives the intruder access to all the content of the phone, including messages sent via encrypted messaging services. An intruder can also use the phone’s microphone and camera to record.
The supplier of Direkt36 was found in the list of 50,000 telephone numbers Szabolcs Panyin and the telephone numbers of this colleague.
Panyi is a well-known investigative journalist in Hungary who uses diplomatic and national security sources in his stories.
When Amnesty International examined his phone, the result was clear: phone data had been repeatedly accessed through Pegasus.
The attacks often took place just after Panyi had sent a request for comment to Hungarian government officials on something.
Government shows with the help of Pegasus also several other Hungarian critics of Orbán, including the owner of another news site 24.hu and a wealthy businessman Zoltán Vargaa as well as its close associates.
In addition to Varga’s number, the year list included the telephone numbers of several businessmen who visited him.
Panyi commented The Guardianthat the Hungarian government seems to believe that the country’s independent journalists are conspiring against the government.
“I think paranoia is widespread and they see more significance in our motives and networks than they actually are,” he said.
The Guardian also asked the Hungarian government for comment, but a spokesman denied the government knew anything about the alleged espionage.
Helsinki university dissertation researcher Annastiina Kallius does not find Hungary’s contribution to espionage surprising, but it is a serious matter in any case. Kallius’ Hungarian acquaintances feel that they are getting into an increasingly difficult situation in their own country.
“It’s terribly harsh, after all, the stakes are just getting harder. Yesterday I had the feeling that hoh-hoijaa, again bad doubts were confirmed. ”
In Hungary, a similar spy scandal was last uncovered in 2018, when it was the software of another Israeli company, Black Cube.
Unlike most Finns, Hungarian dissidents were already accustomed at that time not to bring phones into confidential conversations.
“It had felt paranoid at times, but then the Black Cube case came up. This new case of espionage certainly did not surprise anyone anymore. ”
Now According to Kallius, Direkt36’s Szabolcs Panyi, who has been the target of
“He’s specifically revealing the kind of threads that the administration really wouldn’t want to be public.”
Kallius thinks the revelation of espionage could help the Hungarian regime, as it could lead to increasing self-censorship by the opposition.
According to Kallius, the EU should now closely monitor Hungary’s preparations for the 2023 parliamentary elections.
“Everyone can ask themselves who wants to go into politics if there is a risk of being subjected to espionage. If I were an opposition politician in Hungary now, I would be heated. ”
Very however, according to Kallius, the most significant and direct impact of the espionage scandal is on Hungary’s international relations and the EU. Will the EU country really be allowed to do this?
In Kallius’ opinion, this should be of particular interest to Finland, which during its EU presidency clearly emphasized the debate on the rule of law and adherence to common values.
“The only EU country on the espionage list is Hungary. As long as the EU lets Fidesz run in this way, it will pull the rug under the feet of the EU’s whole value arguments. That is why I think it is absolutely necessary to react to this. ”
In practice, reacting would mean interfering with money, ie EU subsidies, but it does not seem likely from Kallius.
“I don’t hold my breath. For the last 11 years, Fidesz has not been able to respond properly. ”