Spanish secret service chief fired for using Pegasus spyware

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The head of the Spanish secret service CNI was fired on Tuesday, the newspaper reports El País† Paz Esteban admitted last week that his agency tapped the phones of Catalan politicians, activists and lawyers with Pegasus spyware.

The use of Pegasus has been the subject of controversy several times in recent years. The software was developed by the Israeli company NSO Group and was launched in 2011.

Pegasus can be used to access information about phones. This has proven useful in hunting down terrorists and criminals, but some countries are also said to use spyware to spy on activists and journalists.

Security firm CitizenLab revealed last month that it also happened in Spain. For example, Pere Aragonès, who has led the Catalonia region since last year, was reportedly spied on. Other senior officials, such as Defense Secretary Margarita Robles, were also monitored, the investigation said.

The security firm reported that the cellphones of at least 65 people were infected with the spyware. At least 63 cases involved Pegasus spyware. The incidents took place in 2017 and 2020.

CNI leader Esteban was questioned for hours about the case last week. She later admitted that the spying activities took place, although she claims only 18 people were being watched.

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