The phone numbers of current and former heads of state appear on a list of digital surveillance targets of Israeli spyware giant NSO Group clients, according to a bombshell investigation into the company. Phone numbers belonging to a king, three presidents, and 10 prime ministers are among those on the list, which contains about 50,000 numbers, according to the investigation, which was conducted by a consortium of news organizations and security researchers. French President Emmanuel Macron, Iraqi President Barham Salih, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, appear on the list. Seven former prime ministers’ numbers appear on the list but they were in office when they were added to the list, the report notes.
It isn’t clear whether NSO Group clients targeted or successfully hacked into these individuals’ phones. But the presence of their numbers on the list, which includes other smartphones NSO Group clients have successfully targeted, including those of journalists and dissidents, is cause for alarm, according to the investigation. The Paris prosecutor’s office said Tuesday that it is opening an investigation into NSO Group.
An NSO spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment about the list, but NSO Group has said in recent days that the investigation’s claims are baseless. In a statement to The Washington Post, an attorney representing the firm acknowledged the existence of the list that includes targets but said it “has many legitimate and entirely proper uses having nothing to do with surveillance or with NSO.”