Pavel Durov, CEO and co-founder of the Telegram chat platform, is the latest person to be swept away in an ongoing scandal involving the NSO Group.
The Guardian reports that Dur’s number was recently identified on a leaked list of about 50,000 cell phone records that researchers say represent “potential surveillance targets” of NSO Pegasus spy software, implying that it may have been spied on by one of the company’s customers.
He recently shared that list with the news international amnesty i French nonprofit banned stories and served as the basis for a broad investigation into the business practices of an Israeli surveillance company. That turned on telephone numbers of presidents, former prime ministers and kings, as well as journalists, lawyers and political activists. The final data source has not been publicly disclosed.
For now, it is not clear why Durov would be the target for surveillance – and it has not been confirmed that he is. However, The Guardian reported that the businessman was added to the list shortly after he officially changed his residence from Finland to the United Arab Emirates. reported NSO client. The sales house subsequently theorized that this might have been the case the UAE government is “trying to carry out checks on their controversial new resident”.
The question of whether Durov has been placed under surveillance raises some particularly thorny questions, given the fact that his company prides itself on giving priority to privacy and security. Telegram offers customers the ability to encrypt and their chats promise of security “From hacker attacks.”
When questioned about the Durov by the Guardian, the NSO seemed to have bypassed the problem:
Asked directly whether Dur’s phone was targeted by Pegasus or any other spyware-related activity, an NSO spokesman did not directly answer the question. They said: “Any claim that the name on the list is necessarily related to Pegasus’ goal or potential goal is wrong and incorrect.”
The NSO continued to drop the charges against him and announced on Wednesday that it would no longer respond to requests for comments from the press.
“Enough is enough!” company spokesman declared. “In light of the recent planned and well-orchestrated media campaign led by Forbidden Stories and instigated by special interest groups, and due to complete disregard for the facts, the NSO announces that it will no longer respond to media inquiries on this issue and will not play alongside a vicious and defamatory campaign. . “
The company also reiterated that the list had nothing to do with the supervisory goals of NSO clients: “Again, the list is not a list of Pegasus’ goals or potential goals.” In recent days, the firm too issued numerous rebuttals Washington Post for reporting on an apparent scandal.
However, the NSO’s claims contradict the investigative findings regarding the data cache. It’s Amnesty International forensically analyzed at least 67 phones whose numbers were on the list, finding digital traces of NSO spy software on 37 of them (tests on the other 30 devices were considered unsuccessful). This study is subsequently reviewed Citizen Lab, an academic research unit from the University of Toronto that was also deeply involved in the project.
Also contradictory to the company’s narrative is the fact that, in a legal letter addressed for Forbidden Stories, the NSO apparently said it “has no insight into the specific intelligence activities of its customers,” which would seem to make it impossible for it to know whether the numbers on the list are legitimate or not.
It is true that some clarity about the list is still lacking. For example, it is unclear where the data leaked from, and the ultimate nature of the entire content has not been proven in the end. Newspapers mostly treated the data dump as a compilation “persons of interest”For NSO clients – individuals who may have at least been considered targets for spyware deployment, if not directly targeted.