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Catalan president in exile Carles Puigdemont is one of those who has been spied on through hacker software sold by the Israeli company Candiru. This spyware product which enables the Windows operating system to be hacked is sold in intelligence software packages as a service to government agencies, Microsoft said in a statement yesterday, affirming that it is working to eliminate the "malware."

As has confirmed, both Puigdemont and people close to him have been the targets of this software, which enters illegally through vulnerabilities located in Internet browsers and the Windows system on mobile phones, computers, tablets and other devices connected to the internet. The company has identified other victims in Israel, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Armenia and Singapore. Although the digital giant stresses that "identifying victims from a country does not necessarily mean that a state agency of that country is a client of the company."

Candiru, Pegasus and Citizen Lab

The discovery was made possible by researchers at Citizen Lab, part of the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy (University of Toronto). This is the same group that uncovered the espionage case against the speaker of the Catalan parliament Roger Torrent, through his mobile phone being hacked. On that occasion the program used was not from Candiru, but from Pegasus, developed by the Israeli company NSO and theoretically aimed at "fighting crime and terrorism."

The Pegasus program is only available to governments and security forces and is a direct competitor to Candiru. In the espionage cases in which these companies have been implicated, their software has been used against politicians, human rights activists, journalists, academics, embassy workers and political dissidents.

According to a statement, Microsoft and Citizen Lab "have worked together to disable the malware used by SOURGUM [alias used to refer to the conglomerate of companies including Candiru], which targeted more than 100 victims worldwide". The company also clarified that "to limit these attacks, Microsoft has created and incorporated protections into products against this unique malware, called DevilsTongue. We've shared these protections with the security community so we can address and collectively mitigate this threat".

A blow to dialogue

Catalan vice-president and digital policies minister, Jordi Puigneró, reacted yesterday to the announcement of the espionage case against Catalan citizens by blaming the Spanish government. On social media he commented: "Controlling Catalans. Curious agenda for the government of Spain's 're-encounter'". All this when it had not emerged that president Puigdemont was among those targeted by the spyware.

TUIT jordi puigneró espionaje catalanes


Main image: Carles Puigdemont at a press conference in Brussels / Efe