Hungarian official confirms Hungary used NSO Group Pegasus spyware

Pierluigi Paganini November 08, 2021

A Hungarian government official confirmed that his government has bought and used the controversial NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

Lajos Kosa, chair of the Parliament’s Defense and Law Enforcement Committee, confirmed that Hungary is one of the clients of the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group and that it bought and used the controversial Pegasus spyware.

According to Kosa, the use of surveillance software was authorized by a judge or the Minister of Justice.

L’Ungheria è il primo stato europeo a rivelare l’uso del controverso spyware utilizzato da molti governi autoritari per spiare e perseguitare attivisti per i diritti umani, giornalisti e rappresentanti dell’opposizione politica.

In July, a large-scale investigation, dubbed Pegasus Project, into the leak of 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets revealed the abuse of NSO Group’s spyware.

The investigation was conducted by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries coordinated by media, non-profit organization Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International.

The surveillance campaign targeted heads of state, activists and journalists, including the family of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi family before and after he was killed in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 by Saudi operatives.

According to the investigation, more than 300 individuals in Hungary may have been targeted with the powerful spyware.The revelation triggered widespread calls for a formal inquiry into the government’s actions and even street protests across Budapest, Hungary’s capital.

Immediately after the Kosa’s revelation, the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior took distance from his declaration.

“The Ministry of the Interior states, on many occasions, that Hungary’s democratic rule of law, national security and law enforcement services have not and will not carry out illegal surveillance since 29 May 2010.” reads the statement provided to news outlet Telex.

“The material of Thursday’s meeting of the Defense and Law Enforcement Committee, which put the Pegasus case on the agenda, was encrypted until 2050, said ÁGnes Vadai, a DK politician and committee member.”

This week, the U.S. sanctioned four companies for the development of surveillance malware or the sale of hacking tools used by nation-state actors, including NSO Group.

Israeli firms, NSO Group and Candiru are being sanctioned for the development and sale of surveillance software used to spy on journalists and activists. 

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, surveillance

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