Ramaphosa one of 14 world leaders targeted in Pegasus spyware case - report

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Cyril Ramaphosa pictured at the Union Buildings.
Cyril Ramaphosa pictured at the Union Buildings.
Ludovic MARIN / AFP
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has reportedly been targeted in a spyware case.
  • He is one of 14 world leaders whose phone numbers have been listed as targets.
  • The spyware has reportedly been used to track lawyers, journalists and activists.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is reportedly one of the world leaders targeted in a spyware case.  

According to the Guardian, Ramaphosa's cellphone number was listed as a potential target for surveillance in the Pegasus spyware case. He was reportedly among 14 heads of state to be targeted, including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and French President Emmanuel Macron.

When approached for comment, Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said "the Presidency has no comment on this matter." 

READ | Israeli firm’s spyware used to hack phones of journalists and business execs globally

The list is believed to indicate those identified as persons of interest by government clients of Israeli spyware firm NSO Group. According to forensic analysis of their phones, some names on the list were targeted for surveillance, the Guardian reported.

The Israeli company sells surveillance technology to governments worldwide, according to IOL. One of its products is Pegasus, spyware that reportedly targets iPhones and Android devices and allows users to secretly data or activate microphones and cameras.

READ | 'You weren't paranoid': Mexico at heart of spyware scandal

However, NSO told the Guardian that just because a number had appeared on the leaked list, it did 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 report said that Ramaphosa appeared to have been selected by Rwanda in 2019.

The country has reportedly been identified as a client of NSO, having used the Pegasus software. Other targets, seemingly selected by Rwanda, have also been listed.

These reportedly include Ruhakana Rugunda when he served as the Ugandan prime minister and Carine Kanimba, daughter of imprisoned Rwandan activist Paul Rusesabagina.

However, a spokesperson for the Rwandan government told the Guardian that the country did not use the software or have the technological capabilities.

According to an analysis carried out by Amnesty International's Security Lab, Pegasus has also reportedly been traced to the phones of almost 40 human rights activists, journalists and lawyers.

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