Mexico City, Mexico: People close to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador were among the possible victims of Israeli spyware at the center of a global surveillance scandal, reports said Monday.
Lopez Obrador’s wife, children, brother, and even his cardiologist were among those selected for potential surveillance using Pegasus malware before he took office in 2018, news website Aristegui Noticias said.
Their telephone numbers were entered into the system between 2016 and 2017 for possible use with the software acquired from Israeli firm NSO Group, it reported.
At the time Lopez Obrador was the opposition leader and political rival of then-president Enrique Pena Nieto.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, cabinet ministers, and other officials of the current government were also identified as potential targets, it said.
However, a leak of more than 50,000 smartphone numbers believed to have been selected by NSO clients did not include Lopez Obrador himself, according to Aristegui Noticias.
The leftist leader “apparently did not use a personal cell phone” and communicated through his aides, it said.
The revelations emerged on Sunday as part of a collaborative investigation by The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, and other media outlets.
Mexico was the first country in the world to buy Pegasus from NSO “and became something of a laboratory for the spy technology,” according to The Guardian.
Mexican agencies that have acquired the spyware include the defense ministry, the attorney general’s office, and the national security intelligence service, it said.
NSO insists it is only intended for use in fighting terrorism and other crimes.
The Pegasus license in Mexico expired in 2017 and was not renewed, according to the reports.
At least 15,000 Mexican telephone numbers were on the list, including those linked to 25 journalists, one of whom was murdered in 2017 after criticizing alleged links between politicians and criminals, the investigation found.
It is unclear how many devices were actually spied on.