European Parliament
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European Parliament defense subcommittee phones show ‘traces’ of hacking

Traces of hacking have been found on two phones belonging to members of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defense, prompting a warning for all committee members to have their phones checked.

According to Politico, the hacking evidence on the phone of a subcommittee member and a person on staff was discovered during a “routine check.” The other members and staff have been offered spyware screening of their devices in the coming weeks, according to a spokesperson for the European Parliament’s press office.

The spokesperson said the body closely monitors phones belonging to subcommittee staff and members given their sensitive portfolio.

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

European Parliament elections in June have the institution on guard for the possibility of cyberattacks, particularly given a string of prior infections of Parliament members’ phones. Last April, Parliament’s IT department began routinely screening members' phones for spyware and has so far conducted hundreds of inspections, the Parliament spokesperson said.

An internal review conducted by Parliament last year concluded that the body "has not yet met industry standards” and is “not fully in-line with the threat level" it faces from state-sponsored and other hackers, Politico reported in December.

Spyware has been detected multiple times on the phones of political opposition members and others in Europe in recent years.

Last week, Poland’s new prime minister said he had found documents which “confirm 100%” that the prior administration unleashed Pegasus spyware on a “very long list” of targets, including opposition members, according to local news reports.

Pegasus is an advanced form of spyware whose Israeli manufacturer NSO Group says is only sold to nation states, supposedly to fight terrorism. The spyware can penetrate and take over phones, even turning on microphones and cameras for remote access. In recent years it has been widely abused across Europe and the world.

John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, which first discovered the use of Pegasus in Poland, told Recorded Future News last week that the Polish prime minister’s findings that state authorities under the previous administration used Pegasus validate “what our forensic analysis confirmed: Europe has a commercial spyware problem that threatens democratic processes like fair elections.”

The hacking of European Parliament phones is a longstanding problem. In 2022, Railton and fellow researchers at Citizen Lab found that phones belonging to members of the body’s Catalan independence movement had been hit with Pegasus and Candiru, a second powerful spyware tool.

A Greek member of the EU Parliament was found to have been hit with Predator spyware, a third advanced phone surveillance system, that same year.

As a result, the European Parliament established an investigating committee and found that at least four governments across Europe, including Poland, Greece, Hungary and Spain, had used advanced commercial surveillance tools for political gain or to spy on reporters.

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Suzanne Smalley

Suzanne Smalley

is a reporter covering privacy, disinformation and cybersecurity policy for The Record. She was previously a cybersecurity reporter at CyberScoop and Reuters. Earlier in her career Suzanne covered the Boston Police Department for the Boston Globe and two presidential campaign cycles for Newsweek. She lives in Washington with her husband and three children.