An independent prosecutor and a lawyer defending high-profile opposition politicians are the first two targets of phone-hacking using Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to be identified in Poland.
Roman Giertych (C) – lawyer of the President of the European Council and former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is surrounded by the press as he makes his way to Poland’s National Public Prosecutor’s Office. Photo: EPA/Tomasz Gzell
The University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, an internet watchdog that has been investigating the use of military-grade spyware from Israeli company NSO Group by authoritarian governments, said on Tuesday that the first two confirmed victims of phone-hacking using the Pegasus software in Poland are prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek and lawyer Roman Giertych.
Pegasus essentially turns infected phones into spying devices, making those who deploy the spyware able to access all data on the target’s phone, including messages and contacts.
The Associated Press, which first reported the new Citizen Lab findings on Tuesday, said that it cannot be confirmed who ordered the targeting of the two Poles.
Both targets have indicated that they suspect the Polish government.
In response to an inquiry from the AP, Polish state security spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn neither confirmed nor denied whether the government ordered the hacks.
Wrzosek is a well-known independent prosecutor who opposes the Polish government’s controversial justice reforms.
She also ordered an investigation into whether the 2020 presidential elections, which were organised during the pandemic, should have been postponed because they were too risky. Two days after she launched the case, she was transferred to a distant provincial town.
Giertych has been acting as lawyer for high-profile opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Donald Tusk and former Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.
He also defended an Austrian developer who revealed the involvement of ruling Law and Justice Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in a huge real estate deal to build to skyscrapers in the centre of Warsaw, which caused a major scandal.
Earlier this year, an international investigation by 17 media organisations found that the Hungarian government was among those that acquired the controversial Pegasus software from Israeli surveillance company NSO and used it to target a range of journalists, businessmen and activists.
No targets in Poland or other central European countries were identified at the time, but Citizen Lab warned that it had detected spyware infections in Poland dating back to November 2017.
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