Hungary made good use of Israeli spyware Pegasus, a ruling party MP admitted Thursday, while saying it was not to illegally spy on Hungarian citizens.
Hungary was the only EU country on the list released in July by a consortium of investigative journalists as a potential user of this spy software, with hundreds of targets including journalists, lawyers and other public figures.
Smartphones infected with Pegasus turn into spy devices, allowing the user to read their target's messages, look at their photos, track their location and even turn on their camera without their knowledge.
On American blacklist
The government of Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban had so far refused to confirm that he had used Pegasus. But Lajos Kosa, a deputy from the ruling Fidesz party, replied "yes" on Thursday when a Hungarian journalist asked him whether the Interior Ministry had bought the controversial software. "I do not see anything reprehensible," said the minister, who chairs a parliamentary committee on defense, during a hearing of the committee. "More often than not, the big technological firms set up much tighter surveillance than what the Hungarian state does," he added. He added that the Interior Ministry, by using this software, had not violated the rights of any Hungarian citizen.
Interior Minister Sandor Pinter assured the parliamentary committee that the security services had employed him within a legal framework, with the permission of a judge or the Minister of Justice.
Opposition member of the commission Agnes Vadai told reporters Sandor Pinter refused to confirm or deny that journalists or politicians had been monitored thanks to Pegasus.
The United States has just placed NSO, which developed Pegasus, on its national security blacklist.
Pegasus spyware: Israeli firm NSO blacklisted in the United States