By Benjamin Barthe

Posted today at 19:01

The highest state authorities, the gratin of politics, big names in the media and diplomacy: in Lebanon, the list of people whose number has been selected as a potential target of Pegasus, the company’s spyware Israeli NSO Group, looks like a Social Directory. It contains the telephone numbers of the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, of the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Gibran Bassil, of the head of one of the main security services, Abbas Ibrahim. , central bank governor Riad Salamé, executives from Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian Shiite movement, and a plethora of ministers, journalists and ambassadors.

So many VIPs, whose laptop has possibly been hacked in recent years by Pegasus, one of the most sophisticated cyber espionage software in the world, at the initiative of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). These two states, which have long considered Lebanon as a brother country, today treat it as an Iranian quasi-protectorate, due to the growing influence that Hezbollah exerts there.

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Telephone data to which The world was accessed from a list of 50,000 issues selected by NSO customers around the world for possible Pegasus infection. This software can not only siphon content from a smartphone, including messages exchanged on apps like WhatsApp and Signal, but also turn the device, invisibly, into a microphone.

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Saad Hariri in the crosshairs

Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, who consulted this list, shared it with seventeen editors, including that of the World and the Lebanese online magazine Daraj. In this huge register covering some fifty countries, there are around 300 numbers starting with +961, the code for Lebanon. As it was not possible to search the smartphones corresponding to these numbers for technical traces of an intrusion, it is not possible at this stage to say whether these devices were indeed infected.

What we do know is that one or more numbers belonging to the personalities mentioned in this article were preselected in 2018 and 2019 by Saudi Arabia and / or the UAE, two buyers of Pegasus, for a possible bet. under surveillance. Of the 67 phones that the “Project Pegasus” partners were able to have examined, 37 of them bore traces of an Israeli spyware infection. The Saudi and Emirati authorities, contacted on multiple occasions, did not respond to our requests for a reaction.

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