A second prominent member of the Catalan independence movement has announced that it has been warned that its cell phone has been attacked by spyware.
The development should support the demand for an investigation into the possible use of hacking technology by the Spanish authorities.
Ernest Maragall, a MP in the Regional Parliament and a former MEP who also served as the Catalan Foreign Minister, told the Guardian and El País that he was alerted by researchers working with WhatsApp that his phone was selected as a target last year had been.
A joint investigation of the newspapers on Monday revealed that Roger Torrent, spokesman for the Catalan parliament, was also targeted in 201
“It is terrible,” said Maragall. “This is not a surprise. It’s just part of the techniques, the reality we live in every day. We are in a situation where legal measures, guidelines, security forces, prosecutors, all … are against our movement, our peaceful and democratic movement as citizens here in Catalonia. “
Torrent and Maragall, along with two other independence activists, were made aware that they were targeted from April to May 2019 when spyware, used by government customers around the world, exploited an earlier vulnerability in WhatsApp software. With the Israeli NSO group’s spyware, the hacking tool operator can access a person’s phone, including email, calls, and text messages.
The NSO Group has stated that it has no knowledge or control over how its customers use the spyware.
Current and former leaders of the Catalan independence government have requested an investigation into what a Citizen Lab researcher describes as “a possible case of domestic espionage” in Europe.
Torrent called the reports “extremely serious,” adding, “We cannot normalize spying on political disagreements.” He said that if the Spanish government had known the facts about the case, “it would have been involved in a crime.”
Otherwise, it would be a very worrying symptom of political negligence and ignorance of illegal practices.
Gabriel Rufián, spokesman for the Catalan Republican Left Party in the national parliament, urged Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska to “make statements about government organizations allegedly spying and violating the privacy of Catalan political leaders.”
The revelations also met with approval in the European Parliament, where one of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s oldest allies called for an investigation into Torrent’s phone targeting.
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish Socialist MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, said: “Any evidence that the confidentiality of European citizens’ data may have been compromised – be it by senior officials, representatives or individuals Matter – should be examined thoroughly. “In Spain, such investigations are the responsibility of the public prosecutor.
He added that “there is absolutely no need to point out the responsibility of a national authority or government [in connection] to the information we just read about ”.
The Spanish government said it was a legal rather than a political matter, and suggested Torrent report his concerns to the judicial authorities.
“The government has no evidence that the Catalan parliament spokesman has been the victim of a hack or theft on his cell phone,” government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
“If questions of this nature arise, the procedure is known: They inform the responsible judicial authorities about the hack or the interception or theft of a device and they can then investigate whether and under what circumstances this happened. Any eavesdropping on mobile phones always requires preliminary judicial approval. It is not for the government. “
In a statement, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior said: “Neither the Ministry of the Interior, the national police nor the Guardia Civil have had a relationship with the company that developed this program and, as such, have never commissioned its services.”
It added that the actions of the state security forces were always carried out “with the greatest respect for the law”.
The Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI) said in a statement that it had acted “in full compliance with the legal system and in absolute compliance with applicable laws” and that its work had been supervised by the Spanish Supreme Court.
No specific questions were answered regarding the alleged use of “Pegasus” spyware sold by the NSO Group.
A total of 1,400 users were affected by the 2019 attack, which is now the subject of a messaging app lawsuit against the NSO Group, according to WhatsApp. The Californian company has claimed that 100 members of civil society – including journalists in India, human rights defenders in Morocco, diplomats and senior government officials – will be affected.
The NSO Group has denied that it plays a role in the operation of its hacking software and has no knowledge of who its government customers are addressing.
The company said it operates under “industry-leading governance guidelines” and has been unable to confirm or deny which authorities have used its technology due to confidentiality restrictions.
The company criticized Citizen Lab, which investigated the use of NSO Group’s spyware, and said the researchers failed to “competently address the challenges law enforcement agencies have to intercept encrypted communications”. NSO Group has announced that it will only sell its spyware to governments to track down terrorists and criminals.
López Aguilar, who worked on the European Parliament’s response to the 2013 revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency hacked millions of people’s phone records, said that all EU member states are required to comply with the European Data Protection Act, including the General Data Protection Regulation to follow.
“All Member States that may violate this European law should be responsible, but these reports need to be fully reviewed first. The protection of rights and privacy are crucial for Europe’s coherence. “