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Spyware Discovered on the Phones of European Parliament Members

Spyware European Parliament
European parliament. Credit: Europarl/ CC-BY-SA 2.0

The European Parliament said on Wednesday it found traces of spyware on the phones of elected politicians and staff on its defense subcommittee.

Members and staff in the chamber’s subcommittee on security and defense (SEDE) have had their phones hit with intrusive surveillance software tools, the institution said in an internal email, seen by Politico.

All lawmakers in the subcommittee have been advised to take their phones to the institution’s IT service to be checked for spyware.

Parliament’s Deputy Spokesperson Delphine Colard said in a statement that “traces found in two devices” prompted the email calling on members to have their phones checked.

“In the given geopolitical context and given the nature of the files followed by the subcommittee on security and defense, special attention is dedicated to the devices of the members of this subcommittee and the staff supporting its work,” the statement said.

The European Parliament is on high alert for cyberattacks and foreign interference in the run-up to the EU election in June.

Politico reported in December that an internal review showed that the institution’s cybersecurity “has not yet met industry standards” and is “not fully in line with the threat level” posed by state-sponsored hackers and other threat groups.

One member of the security and defense subcommittee went in for a routine check on Tuesday, which resulted in a discovery of traces of spyware on their phone. The member told Politico it wasn’t immediately clear why they were targeted with hacking software.

Spyware in Greek socialist leader’s phone

The new revelations follow previous incidents with other European Parliament members targeted with spyware.

In 2022, Greek member of the EU Parliament and opposition leader Nikos Androulakis was among a list of Greek political and public figures found to have been targeted with Predator, a spyware tool.

A scan on his phone revealed a suspect link, which allows the hacker full and constant access to the mobile device, including passwords, photos and contact folders, web browsing history, text messages, and voicemail among other things.

“Revealing who is behind such sick practices and on whose behalf they act is not a personal matter,” Androulakis said at the time. “It is my democratic duty.”

Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola previously also faced an attempted hacking using spyware.

Last June, the European Parliament, based on a year-long investigation into the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware, passed a resolution saying that the illicit use of spyware has put “democracy itself at stake.”

The resolution which was adopted with 411 votes in favor, 97 against, and 37 abstentions, called for credible investigations, legislative changes and better enforcement of existing rules to tackle abuse.

It asked the Greek government to “urgently restore and strengthen the institutional and legal safeguards”, repeal export licenses that are not in line with EU export control legislation, and respect the independence of the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy.

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