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Florence Parly is the latest senior official said to have been targeted by Pegasus spyware

Former French Defense Minister Florence Parly was spied on with the use of Israeli-developed Pegasus surveillance software, Mediapart reported on Tuesday. Traces of the spyware’s code are said to have been discovered on her phone.

Investigators informed Parly about their discovery last week, according to the outlet. The evidence does not point to a specific party behind the espionage, nor does it indicate when the former minister’s device was infected, although a nation state is presumed to be behind the surveillance.

At least 23 public figures in France have been targeted with Pegasus hacks, including President Emmanuel Macron and former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, according to French media. Reports have suggested that the Moroccan government may have used the malware to collect intelligence.

Previous investigations identified Parly’s predecessor Sebastien Lecornu, former Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, former Territorial Cohesion Minister Jacqueline Gourault, former Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie, and former Ecological Transition Minister Emmanuelle Wargon as victims of Pegasus snooping.

Pegasus is arguably the best-known toolkit on the market which allows targeted hacks on electronic devices. After infection, the malware provides access to personal data stored on a phone and can turn it into a surveillance device.

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Developer NSO Group has deployed the product on behalf of governments around the world, and has claimed that the service is intended to combat organized crime and terrorism. However, critics say the malware has been used to spy on journalists, dissidents, and foreign officials on a massive scale.

It was reported in 2021 that a list of phone numbers flagged for penetration by NSO clients had over 50,000 entries. The firm was hit with US sanctions that year amid a flurry of exposés of its role in alleged violations of human rights.

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