SpywareMacron’s Secure Mobile Phone Compromised by Pegasus Spyware

Published 20 July 2021

The secure smartphone of French president Emmanuel Macron was compromised by the Pegasus surveillance malware. It was surreptitiously installed by Moroccan intelligence operatives, who introduced the virus into the phones of former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and fourteen other current and former French cabinet ministers.

President Emmanuel Macron of France is one of the victims of the Pegasus spyware. Le Monde revealed today (Tuesday) that Macron’s cell phone had been targeted by Pegasus spyware. Macron’s name was on a list of dozens of individuals targeted by Pegasus surveillance software. The list on which Macron’s name appeared was the list of people spied on by the Moroccan intelligence service.

Morocco is among the forty-five governments which acquired and operated the Pegasus spyware.

Pegasus was developed by the Israeli cyber firm NSO Group, which was created by veterans of Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s digital espionage branch. Pegasus installs a virus in the smartphones it targets, allowing the operator to retrieve messages, photos, emails, contacts, text messages (even if these messages are encrypted) — and even listen in on live phone calls made by the smartphone owner.

The Moroccan intelligence service introduced the Pegasus virus not only into Macron’s phone, but also into the phones of former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and fourteen other current and former cabinet ministers.

Macron’s compromised smart phone is the one given to him by the DGSI (Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure), the French domestic security services, for his personal use. He is under instruction not to use any other phone either for private use, such as calling family members and friends, or for official use. As is the case with all his phones, laptops, tablets, and other media, the compromised smartphone is subject to the most rigorous and restrictive security measures available in France. It is intricately encrypted and jealously guarded by the security services. For additional security, it is regularly updated and often changed. Its number is changed every few weeks as well. Moreover, Macron cannot download anything from the internet on the phone, and cannot install any software on it.

The fact that the Pegasus virus managed to install itself on Macron’s phone is a cause for consternation at DGSI.