The Moroccan government denies reports that the country’s security forces may have used spyware made by the Israeli group NSO to eavesdrop on the French president’s mobile phones and other public figures.
On Wednesday, prosecutors ordered an investigation into so-called false allegations used by Moroccan security services NSO malware to spy on activists, journalists and politicians in many countries.
The French prime minister said on Wednesday that numerous investigations were under way into any violations.
The Moroccan government made a statement late Tuesday in a global media consortium investigating the alleged widespread use of NSOs. Pegasus spyware targeting journalists, human rights activists and politicians in many countries. The government has threatened unspecified legal action.
The French newspaper Le Monde, a member of the consortium, reported that the president’s mobile phones Emmanuel Macron and 15 then-members of the French government may have been among the potential targets in 2019 for monitoring Pegasus spyware on behalf of the Moroccan security agency.
French public television Radio France reported that the telephones of Moroccan King Mohammed VI and members of his entourage were also among the potential targets.
“The Kingdom of Morocco strongly condemns the constant false, massive and malicious media campaign,” the statement said. The government said it “rejects these false and unsubstantiated allegations and challenges their traders … to provide all kinds of material evidence in support of their surreal stories.”
The consortium identifies possible objectives from expired list of more than 50,000 mobile phone numbers received from the Paris-based non-profit journal Forbidden Stories and the human rights organization Amnesty International.
Consortium members said they had managed to link more than 1,000 numbers to the list of people. Most were in Mexico and the Middle East.
The presence of a phone number in the data does not mean that an attempt has been made to hack a device, the consortium said it believes the data shows potential targets for NSO government customers.
The list also included telephone numbers in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Morocco and Rwanda, as well as telephone numbers for several members of the Arab royal family, heads of state and prime ministers, the consortium said.
Prosecutors in Paris are investigating the alleged use of spyware, and French experts are calling for greater security on the mobile phones of prominent officials.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday that the president had “ordered a series of investigations”, but said it was too early to comment on or announce any new security measures or other actions without knowing “exactly what happened”.
The NSO Group denied having maintained a “list of potential, past or existing targets”. The report called “Forbidden Stories” “full of misconceptions and unconfirmed theories.”
The source of the leak – and how it was certified – has not been disclosed.