Emmanuel Macron Added to List of Those Potentially Targeted With NSO Spyware

French President Emmanuel Macron was added to the long list of those potentially targeted with Israel-based NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, French newspaper Le Monde reported Tuesday.

The newspaper wrote that the phone numbers for Macron and 15 members of the French government were identified for alleged digital surveillance by a client of the hacking group, an unknown Moroccan security service, in 2019. Other clients of NSO Group allegedly selected thousands of people for surveillance.

Journalism nonprofit organization Forbidden Stories, based in Paris, and Amnesty International obtained over 50,000 cell phone numbers of alleged persons of interest for spyware surveillance and leaked the numbers to 16 news outlets, including Le Monde, to identify the owners of the phone numbers, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, NSO Group said in a statement that it never had "a list of potential, past or existing targets" and denied the accusations made by Forbidden Stories.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron was added to the list of those potentially targeted by NSO Group's spyware. In this photo, Macron arrives for the Bastille Day Military parade on July 14, 2021, in Paris. Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

The Paris prosecutor's office announced it is investigating the suspected widespread use of the Pegasus spyware to target journalists, human rights activists and politicians in multiple countries.

Le Monde was part of a global media consortium that identified the targets.

Consortium members said they were able to link more than 1,000 numbers on the list with individuals, including more than 600 politicians and government officials and 189 journalists. Among the numbers were those of journalists and politicians in France.

The consortium's reporting has said several Arab royal family members, heads of state and prime ministers were on the list.

An official in Macron's office said authorities would investigate the report, and if the targeting is proven, it would be "extremely grave."

Le Monde quoted NSO as saying the French president was never targeted by its clients.

NSO Group called the Forbidden Stories report "full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories."

The source of the leak—and how it was authenticated—was not disclosed. While a phone number's presence in the data does not mean an attempt was made to hack a device, the consortium said it believed the data indicated potential targets of NSO's government clients.

The Paris prosecutor's office said in a statement Tuesday that it opened an investigation into a raft of potential charges, including violation of privacy, illegal use of data and illegally selling spyware.

As is common under French law, the investigation doesn't name a suspected perpetrator but is aimed at determining who might eventually be sent to trial. It was prompted by a legal complaint by two journalists and French investigative website Mediapart.

Laptop Keyboard
Emanuel Macron and 15 members of the French government were allegedly targeted by the NSO group. In this June 19, 2017, file photo, a person types on a laptop keyboard in North Andover, Massachusetts. Elise Amendola/AP Photo