New espionage case against the leader of the Greek Socialist Party worries the European Commission – EURACTIV.com

A new case of an attempt to tap the mobile phone of the leader of the Greek socialist opposition with surveillance software has Brussels cringing. A spokesman for the European Commission said that such practices were “unacceptable” if they were confirmed.

Greek Socialist leader and MEP (Pasok, S&D) Nikos Androulakis filed a complaint with prosecutors on Monday (July 26th) after the European Parliament’s cyber security services informed him of an attempt to tap his mobile phone using spyware.

“There was an attempt to eavesdrop on my mobile phone with the Predator surveillance malware”said Mr. Androulakis.

“To expose those who hide behind such unhealthy practices (…) is not a personal matter, but my democratic duty”he added.

The software is a surveillance tool that provides access to the victim’s mobile device, including passwords, files, photos, browsing history and identity data. It can also take screenshots, record user input, and activate the device’s camera and microphone.

Pasok is Greece’s third-largest political party and is set to emerge as a kingmaker in forming a coalition government after the next general election in 2023.

Contacted by EURACTIV, a spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed that the board had received a letter regarding the matter.

“As you know, the Commission does not comment on individual cases. More generally, we can say that we are aware of cases reported by the media regarding spyware used by some governments.”said the spokesman.

“Any attempt by national security services to illegally access the data of citizens, including journalists and political opponents, if confirmed, is unacceptable”the spokesman added.

The EU spokesperson also cited the latest 2022 report on the rule of law in Greece, which refers to the case of a journalist who was hit by spyware similar to Pegasus (Predator) and another journalist who would have been “monitored by national intelligence agencies”.

The national intelligence services are overseen by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The EU spokesman said that national security is the competence of member states. However, they must apply European legislation in this area and supervise and control their security services to ensure that they fully respect fundamental rights, in particular the protection of personal data, the safety of journalists and freedom of expression.

“While Member States have jurisdiction over protecting their national security, they must apply relevant EU law, including the case law of the European Court of Justice, when doing so”said the EU official.

“The Commission expects the national authorities to thoroughly investigate any such allegation and restore citizens’ trust”concluded the spokesperson.

The suspicious SMS

According to press reports, a check of Mr. Androulakis’ phone on June 28 and found a suspicious link to the illegal spyware Predator.

Pasok sources said the Socialist leader received a text message on September 21, 2021, shortly before the start of internal party negotiations.

The message encouraged him to click on a specific link, which, according to a report by the Citizens Lab at the University of Toronto, acts as a lure to install the Predator tracking software on the target’s cellphone.

The announcement reads as follows: “Let’s be serious, man, we’ve got a lot to gain”followed by a link which was a spoof of a real website.

Androulakis did not click the link, which appears to have saved him from the worst, party sources commented.

The same sources added that out of more than 200 checks on MEPs’ mobile phones carried out by the European Parliament, this was the first case of an attempt to tap a personal phone device.

Technical advisers are not ruling out the possibility of listening in on the call with other systems that leave no trace, the sources said.

The Pasok party says the target was not only Mr Androulakis’ private life, but also aimed to influence his political activity.

Reactions in Athens

All opposition parties reacted strongly to this new spyware case and called on the government to provide answers.

Greek government spokesman Yannis Economou said the case should be dealt with immediately.

Greece’s conservative New Democracy (EPP) government has repeatedly refused to buy the Predator surveillance software.

Thanasis Koukakis, the journalist whose phone was discovered with Predator, said last May that Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) warned: “We estimate that the likely government-backed actors buying these holdings operate (at least) in Egypt, Armenia, Greece, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Serbia, Spain and Indonesia”.

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