Poland’s phone spyware scandal raises doubts over 2019 election

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a brewing scandal An opposition lawmaker is questioning the legitimacy of the country’s 2019 parliamentary elections over alleged historic use of controversial mobile spyware by Poland’s ruling party.

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Internet watchdog Citizen Lab found that NSO Group’s notorious spyware Pegasus was used to spy on three critics of the Polish government. One of the targets was named Krzysztof Brezza, a member of the Polish Senate, whose phone was hacked dozens of times ahead of parliamentary elections in 2019.

Text messages stolen from Brezza’s phone were manipulated and broadcast by state-controlled TV as part of an apparent smear campaign ahead of the election. Brezza’s left-leaning political alliance, the Civic Platform, later lost the country’s 2019 parliamentary election by a close margin. brezza told the Associated Press, which first reported the hack, said the election was unfair because the ruling party would have access to its campaign plans.

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The Polish government previously denied that it used Pegasus, a mobile spyware that gives its government customers almost complete access to a target’s device, including their personal data, photos, messages and exact location.

Jarosaw Kaczyski, the leader of Poland’s Law and Justice Party and the country’s deputy prime minister, shrugged off allegations that the Polish government used Pegasus spyware to monitor its political protests, but said Polish media Last week that it would be “bad” if Polish security services didn’t have access to mobile spying technology while other countries did.

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Polish media report that the government purchased Pegasus in 2017 using money from the so-called Justice Fund, which is supposed to help victims of crimes and rehabilitate criminals.

Amnesty International independently last weekend verified That Brezza’s phone was hacked.

“We urgently need governments to implement a global ban on the sale, transfer and use of spyware until human rights regulatory safeguards are in place.”
Likhita Banerjee, Amnesty International

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the Associated Press and Citizen Lab’s findings “fake news” and claimed a foreign intelligence service may be to blame. Critics rejected the government’s allegations, arguing that no other government would be interested in the three Polish targets.

The other two Polish targets confirmed by Citizen Lab are Roman Geertic, a lawyer who represents opposition politicians in several politically sensitive cases, and prosecutor Eva Vrzocek. Apple began notifying phone espionage victims in December when it sued NSO to prevent the spyware maker from using any of Apple’s technology, thereby hacking its targets for NSO. It will be very difficult to do.

Pegasus is used by authoritarian governments such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates to spy on journalists, politicians and human rights defenders. But new reporting last year revealed several EU states, including Germany And Hungary Pegasus is a customer, as is Poland now.

Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk – the new leader of the Civic Platform since October 2021 – has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s use of Pegasus. Guy Verhofstad, a liberal member of the European Parliament for Renew Europe, told Nerdshala that the allegations need to be investigated to get a full picture of how the Polish government is using Pegasus.

“But what we do know is very worrying,” he said. “This clearly threatens both the rule of law as well as free and fair elections – and therefore both EU rules as well as the integrity of the EU. If this is sufficient for a full European investigation If not, then what is?”

When reached, an unnamed spokesperson for the NSO Group declined to confirm or deny its clients, but said: “The use of cyber tools to monitor dissidents, activists and journalists is a serious abuse of any technology and as such.” Goes against the desired use of critical tools. The international community should have a zero tolerance policy towards such acts, hence the need for global regulation. NSO has zeroed in on this type of abuse in the past by terminating several contracts -Proven tolerance.

Amnesty International, which called the findings “shocking, but not surprising”, is also calling on the European Union to implement targeted sanctions against the NSO group, as has the US government.

“This shows, once again, that the uncontrolled use of Pegasus is a threat not only to politicians, but to civil society around the world. So far not enough has been done to rule out illegal targeted surveillance,” Amnesty Likita Banerjee, a researcher and consultant at International, told Nerdshala.

“We Need Governments To Immediate Implementation” global moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of spyware until human rights regulatory safeguards are in place.

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