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Frances Fitzgerald calls for investigation into use of Pegasus spyware in Ireland

Updated: Jul 5

Press Statement from Frances Fitzgerald MEP


Tuesday 31st May 2022


Frances Fitzgerald calls for investigation into use of Pegasus spyware in Ireland


Dublin MEP Frances Fitzgerald has called for the Irish National Cyber Security Centre to be fully resourced and empowered to review the use of Pegasus software in Ireland following reports of its use to spy on citizens in several countries. MEP Fitzgerald is a member of the European Parliament Committee that is investigating the use of this software following numerous reports of its use to hack phones and online systems.

Pegasus software was developed by the NSO Group as a tool to fight terrorism and organised crime. However, several reports from around the world have suggested that the software has been used to spy on citizens including journalists, civic society groups, and governments, in countries such as Spain, Mexico, the UK, Poland, Hungary, and France. The independent group Citizen Lab, which includes journalists and academics, has been researching the use of Pegasus software in 45 countries. The journalistic group Forbidden Stories has claimed that over 180 journalists around the world have been targeted by Pegasus users.

Legislation to increase the powers of the National Cyber Security Centre is expected later this year.

Frances Fitzgerald MEP said, “In Ireland, we need to take cyber security seriously. Pegasus is a quasi-military spyware tool, which is now reported to be used by certain organisations and governments to tap the phones of public figures by effectively turning smartphones in remote listening devices. In Ireland we have no information on the extent to which Pegasus is being used and against whom. This represents a serious cybersecurity concern. That is why I am calling on the Government to fully resource and empower the National Cyber Security Centre, working with An Garda Síochána if necessary, to review the use of Pegasus Software in Ireland. The first step in protecting our democracy is knowing the full extent of what is happening.

“Across Europe and the wider world, there are serious concerns about violations of the right to privacy and the rights of a free press by users of the Pegasus software. According to reports, recent targets comprise reporters and opposition politicians in Poland and Hungary, the Spanish Prime Minister and Defence Minister, MEPs, Commissioners, including EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, and the Number 10 Downing Street network.

“Last year’s cyber-attack on the HSE gave us an insight into how exposed we may be to those who seek to hack our systems and steal sensitive data. There is also significant concerns in relation to Russian backed cyber-attacks on Europe, particularly following the invasion of Ukraine. In recent days, representatives of NSO appeared in front of the Parliament’s Pegasus Committee and there were significant concerns about their refusal to share information about where Pegasus is being used and what systems are in place to prevent abuse.

"The European Union takes data protection extremely seriously however; we rely on the Member States to ensure that robust and secure protections are in place. This is why a review of the use of Pegasus and other similar software in Ireland is long overdue. It is about ensuring that our laws and fundamental rights remain robust and protected in a modern, digital economy. It is clear that urgent answers are needed. Our democracy cannot be taken for granted."


ENDS


Contact:

Michael Ward

michael.ward@europarl.europa.eu




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