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Spyware scandal shocks Polish government

Spyware scandal shocks Polish government

Several members of political opposition groups in Poland have presented evidence that they were hacked by Pegasus spyware, raising alarming questions about the use of the software by the Polish government.

The most alarming case involved the leader of Poland's Civic Platform party, Senator Krzysztof Brezza, whose phone was compromised a total of 33 times in the six months leading up to the 2019 election, as reported by the Associated Press. During the campaign, Polish state media published harmful text messages obtained from Breja's phone, raising concerns that spyware had been used.

The compromise was discovered by Citizen Lab, a spyware research group based at the University of Toronto that has done extensive work on Pegasus. Citizen Lab had previously found evidence linking Pegasus spyware to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and a separate campaign against the New York Times journalist.

In the Polish case, Citizen Lab also found evidence of a spyware settlement targeting a lawyer representing Polish opposition groups and a prosecutor involved in a case against the ruling Law and Justice party. In both cases, traces of Pegasus spyware were found on the target's devices.

Despite the evidence, the Polish government has strongly denied any use of spyware for intelligence gathering or domestic surveillance. "The Pegasus system is not used by Polish services," the deputy defense minister said recently, as reported by Politico Europe. "It's not used to follow or investigate anyone in our country."

Nevertheless, the scandal is likely to have significant consequences for Poland's position in the European Union and to prepare the case for further technical defenses against Pegasus. In November, Apple filed a federal lawsuit against NSO Group (which develops and sells Pegasus), seeking a permanent injunction against the company's use of Apple products and services. Amazon Web Services has blocked all accounts associated with the NSO Group, and the US Treasury Department has called it a threat to a "rules-based international order" to block exports or other transactions with the company.

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