SA President Among World Leaders Targeted With Surveillance Spy-ware

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been named in a leaked database at the heart of the Pegasus Project which includes cellphone numbers of government leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, according to an investigation conducted by the Guardian.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa's cellphone number is reported to have been listed as a possible target of surveillance in a leaked database at the heart of the Pegasus Project which includes the cellphone numbers of 13 other heads of state such as French President Emmanuel Macron and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to the Guardian.

According to IOL the Pegasus Project is a collaborative journalistic investigation into the Israeli NSO Group and its clients. The NSO Group sells surveillance technology to governments across the world.

Its flagship product is Pegasus, spying software – or spyware – that targets iPhones and Android devices. Once a phone is infected, a Pegasus operator can secretly extract chats, photos, emails, and location data, or activate microphones and cameras without the user knowing. South African president Cyril Ramaphosa appears to have been selected by Rwanda in 2019.

In response to the Guardian investigation, a spokesperson for the Rwandan government said the country, “does not use this software system and does not possess this technical capability in any form.”

These revelations by the Guardian have raised concerns about the use of surveillance software for purposes other than pursuing criminals and terrorists for which the software was intended to be used. One concerned privacy activist who raised an alarm about such software is Edward Snowden.

However, NSO is reported to have told the Guardian that just because a number had appeared on the leaked list, does not mean it had been subjected to a hack. The company also said it requires government clients to use Pegasus for legitimate investigations into terrorism or crime.

The South African presidency is yet to respond or comment on the matter.

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