Hungarian prosecutors open investigation into Pegasus espionage allegations | Cybercrime News

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Move comes after media reports allege Hungarian journalists, lawyers and critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban were targeted by spyware.

Hungarian prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected illegal surveillance after multiple complaints over allegations of misuse of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware.

Budapest’s regional prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Thursday that the investigation would “investigate the so-called Pegasus case, on suspicion of the crime of collecting unauthorized classified information”.

“The task of the investigation is to establish the facts and determine whether and, if so, what crime has taken place,” it added.

The probe came after a research Published Sunday by a coalition of media organizations, it claimed that the Pegasus spyware, created and licensed by the Israeli company NSO, had been used by governments in several countries around the world to infiltrate the smartphones of potentially thousands of people.

Hungary was the only European Union country listed as a potential user of the software.

The Hungarian investigative website Direkt36, part of the media consortium that published the disclosure, said a list of more than 300 Hungarian phone numbers suspected of being targeted by the software, those of journalists, businessmen, lawyers and those who criticize the Prime Minister Victor. Orban’s government.

The reports did not identify the parties that claimed to have deployed the spyware, but critics have long accused Orban, a self-proclaimed “illiberal”, of undermining basic rights such as press freedoms since he took office in 2010.

Budapest rejects accusations

Hungarian police said they had received two complaints about the alleged abuses this week, one from a private individual and one from a politician.

But Hungarian officials have dismissed the allegations in the media reports, calling them “baseless”.

On Monday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the government was not aware of the surveillance activities reported in the international media, adding that the Information Bureau, an intelligence agency under his supervision, had not used Pegasus.

Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said Hungary has “always acted in accordance with the law”.

Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, echoed Pinter’s comments at a weekly press conference, stating that details about Hungary’s government surveillance were “not public information.”

“In such matters, there is only one question to be examined, which is whether the intelligence gathering has been lawful or not,” he said. “We maintain that all classified intelligence gathering has been done lawfully.”

NSO Group, the Israeli developer, has also dismissed the media consortium’s coverage as “full of false assumptions and unconfirmed theories”.

It has said that Pegasus is only sold to vetted foreign governments and only for use against terrorists or criminals.

Pegasus is a form of malware that infects smartphones to enable extracting messages, photos and emails, recording conversations and secretly activating microphones.

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