Following revelations that Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov was targeted by the notorious Pegasus spyware, the tech billionaire has revealed that he has known for years that he was a potential target of surveillance.
Writing on Telegram, the instant-messaging application he founded, Durov said that he has been aware since 2018 that his phone number was included in a list of targets of the military-grade surveillance tools.
“Personally, I wasn’t worried: since 2011, when I was still living in Russia, I’ve got used to assuming that all my phones were compromised,” he said.
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Durov’s comments came following a report by the British newspaper The Guardian, which was part of a multi-title international investigation called the Pegasus Project, revealing that Durov’s number was found on a leaked list of potential targets for the Pegasus phone-invading software, run by the NSO Group, an Israeli company that sells spyware enabling the remote surveillance of smartphones. According to the leak, 50,000 phone numbers were targeted, including that of French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel, and Indian opposition figure Rahul Gandhi.
According to the leak, Durov’s number was put on the list by the United Arab Emirates, to where he’d moved in 2018.
The blame for phone-hacking should be pointed towards Apple and Google, the Telegram founder said, noting that Pegasus can easily hack any iOS and Android, and “there is no way to protect your device from it.”
“Both Apple and Google are part of the global surveillance program that implies that these companies have to, among other things, implement backdoors into their mobile operating systems,” he said, blaming the tech giants for including backdoors to allow US agencies to access information on any smartphone in the world. Other bodies, like the NSO Group, can also exploit these weaknesses, he noted.
“The existence of backdoors in crucial infrastructure and software creates a huge challenge for humanity,” he continued. “That’s why I have been calling upon the governments of the world to start acting against the Apple-Google duopoly in the smartphone market and to force them to open their closed ecosystems and allow for more competition.”
Durov, who was born in Russia and now has a Saint Kitts & Nevis passport, is not only the founder of Telegram, the messaging app focusing on security, but also founded popular social network VKontakte, or VK.
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