Israeli NSO, Hungary to be sued by Hungarian journalists targeted by Pegasus
The Pegasus Project previously reported that the mobile devices of numerous journalists in Hungary had been hacked by Pegasus.
A number of Hungarian journalists who were targeted by Pegasus intend to sue the Hungarian state, as well as NSO group, the Israeli manufacturer company of the tool.
Last summer, the Pegasus Project revealed forensic analysis of mobile phones indicated numerous journalists were targeted by Pegasus.
The intrusive malware enables control over a target's mobile device, views any data, including encrypted chat applications, and enables audio or video recording. According to the Pegasus Project, Hungary appears to be one of several nations where the technology is being exploited.
At the time, the Hungarian government did not confirm whether it had used spyware on the persons.
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) has now announced that it will file a lawsuit on behalf of six clients. Adam Remport, of the HCLU, expressed that “it is unacceptable that the operations of the national security services, which are necessarily carried out in secret, should become a tool of oppression rather than a means of protecting citizens."
The HCLU will pursue a variety of legal channels including demands for information from the security services and legal action in court. Remport believes that although in the past, courts remained on the side of security services, the Hungarian legal case might serve as a model for victims of illegal spying in other countries.
The HCLU and an Israeli lawyer, Eitay Mack, will also request that a criminal prosecution be started against NSO in "Israel" and the Israeli officials who approved the sale to Viktor Orbán's administration.
Panyi, an investigative journalist with the Hungarian magazine Direkt36, a partner on the Pegasus Project, was targeted with Pegasus on many occasions. He described the case as a symbolic one, with the goal of forcing the change of Hungary's system of authorizing monitoring rather than obtaining personal justice.
He expressed that the most troubling for him is the infringing of his right to protect his sources. He revealed that the true aim of the surveillance was confusing to him, adding that “I would at least like to receive some information about which agency was surveilling me, when and why,” he said.
What is Pegasus?
According to an investigation led by The Washington Post and 16 media partners that were published on July 18, Pegasus is military-grade spyware leased by NSO to governments who used it in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, and business executives.
The investigation discovered that 37 targeted smartphones were found on a list of more than 50,000 numbers concentrated in countries known to engage in citizen surveillance and also known to have been clients of NSO Group.
A substantial number of people were found in West Asia, including Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Yemen, knowing that NSO clientele is said to include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Other countries were also involved, according to the same report.