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Citizen Lab has proof Polish opposition senator hacked with spyware

One of the first witnesses was John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at the Citizen Lab Research Laboratory, a specialist IT department at the University of Toronto, which confirmed in late December that the Pegasus software had been used to hack the mobile phones of some members of Poland's opposition.
Piotr Nowak/PAP

An expert from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which researches digital surveillance, has said there is evidence that a Polish opposition senator was “under extensive monitoring.”

On Monday, a special committee appointed at the Polish Senate to investigate the alleged use of Israeli-made Pegasus spyware for surveillance of opposition figures in Poland, started witness hearing.

One of the first witnesses was John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at the Citizen Lab Research Laboratory, a specialist IT department at the University of Toronto, which confirmed in late December that the Pegasus software had been used to hack the mobile phones of some members of Poland’s opposition.

According to Citizen Lab, one of the victims was Senator Krzysztof Brejza, whose phone was digitally broken into 33 times between April and October 2019, when he ran a parliamentary election campaign for the main opposition bloc, the Civic Coalition (KO).

Other known victims include Roman Giertych, a lawyer and government critic, and Ewa Wrzosek, an independent prosecutor who has voiced opposition to the Polish government’s changes to the judicial system.

Scott-Railton told the Senate’s committee that Citizen Lab had forensic evidence that data had been stolen from Brejza’s mobile device and that the senator had been under extensive surveillance.

He also said that Citizen Lab had started investigation of the use of Pegasus in Poland back in 2016 and that in 2018 the researchers reported a very active user of the spyware in the country with Wrzosek being the target.

Ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński recently said that the creation and use of Pegasus was an outcome of technological change and the widespread use of encrypted communication apps, which could not be cracked by old-style surveillance methods.

“It would be bad if Polish agencies did not have such a tool,” Kaczyński said, but refuted allegations that it was used against the opposition.

The Senate’s committee consists of seven senators. PiS, which has been offered two seats, refused to put forward any candidates.


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