Allegations against Polish Politburo: Accused of employing spyware. Delve into the unfolding espionage controversy. Revelations about Pegasus have shown that states can use software like this to spy on their own citizens and undermine the credibility of digital democracy. The EU should raise the profile of digital repression in its bilateral discussions with authoritarian governments and impose costs on those who trade surveillance technologies that are used to violate human rights.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán
As Hungary struggles with an illiberal brand of politics, its prime minister is increasingly the black sheep of Europe. Orban’s rabid nationalism and embrace of culture wars have isolated him from most European contemporaries. But they’ve endeared him to the American right, where he is widely embraced by conservative activists.
The leader of a Mitteleuropean country of 10 million people with few natural resources, Orban defies categorization except as a gifted politician. He has won three national elections, kept a tight grip on his party for more than 20 years and forged a formidable record in international relations.
In the past year, Orbán has become a vocal critic of the European Union and its migration policy, while also stoking nationalist sentiments at home. He has pressed the EU to adopt his vision of a “zero tolerance” approach toward asylum seekers and called for tighter controls over the media. In a high-stakes election this spring, Orbán’s ruling Fidesz is expected to win another term.
While the EU has criticized Orbán’s policies and tactics, many Hungarians see him as better than Jobbik, the openly anti-Semitic far-right party that won a fifth of the vote in last year’s national election. And despite his critics, there is a pragmatism to Orban’s furies: When the EU flexes its muscles over such issues as gerrymandering or a media monopoly, Orban tends to back down.
But Orbán faces a reckoning with the EU over corruption concerns and alleged rule-of-law violations. The 27-nation bloc could impose financial penalties on Budapest that would cost billions and cripple the economy.
Amid the uproar over Pegasus, Orbán has pushed back against allegations that he is using state surveillance to target opposition leaders and journalists. He has also defended Hungary’s role as Putin’s closest ally in the EU, insisting that the government is doing everything possible to ensure Russian energy supplies and refusing to join the West in sanctioning Russia over Ukraine. The European Commission president warned this week that Hungary could face sanctions if it doesn’t comply with EU rules on transparency and human rights.
Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto
As Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto has played a key role in the country’s approach to migrants. He has pushed for the EU to increase funding and help countries curb migrant flows across their borders. He also urged the EU to work with Egypt’s government to address its migration crisis. He also praised China for its support of European values and its commitment to multilateralism.
Szijjarto is a member of the Fidesz Party and began his career in politics as a youth activist in 1998. He was elected to the Municipal Assembly of Gyor in 2006, where he served as deputy chairman of the education, culture and sports committee. He was later appointed state secretary for foreign affairs and external economic relations in 2012, and became Hungary’s foreign minister in 2014.
Founded in 2010, NSO Group claims that its “technology helps governments prevent and investigate terrorism and crime to save thousands of lives around the world.” But research by Citizen Lab indicates that the company is far more than a typical cybersecurity firm. It has created sophisticated spyware called Pegasus that can infiltrate a mobile phone and harvest data including photos and videos, recordings, communications, location records, passwords and call logs, and activate cameras and microphones without the user’s knowledge or consent. It has also been used to spy on politicians, journalists, human rights activists, and other high-profile individuals.
Pegasus can be installed on smartphones using methods similar to those of other malware programs such as spear-phishing. However, it is designed to be undetectable by regular anti-malware software. It is capable of bypassing antivirus tools by using unique weaknesses in apps such as WhatsApp and Google Chrome. It can even scan the device’s operating system for vulnerabilities and exploit them. It can even access files in the phone’s system folders and change settings on the operating system without leaving a trace on the victim’s device.
It has been reported that Pegasus is being used by government intelligence agencies to spy on political opponents, journalists, and other high-profile individuals worldwide. Some of the victims include employees at Al Jazeera, Reuters, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal. Others include at least 85 human rights activists and 65 business executives.
Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Péter Szijjarto
As Hungary grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and changes in global politics and economics, the country wants to be among those who win in the new era, foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said on Thursday. The minister told parliament’s national security committee that the pandemic and its effects had “fundamentally disrupted the status quo in every area” and left countries jostling for position.
The remarks followed a media consortium’s report that Hungarian police used Pegasus software made and sold by Israeli company NSO Group to infiltrate smartphones and extract data. The investigation named hundreds of people suspected of being targeted, including journalists and critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government. Ruling party Fidesz MP Lajos Kosa denied the claims on Thursday and said that when the ministry bought Pegasus, it promised not to violate anyone’s privacy.
NSO rejected the reports as “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories”. It has said that it only sells its software to vetted governments, and only for use against terrorism and other serious crimes.
During the meeting, Szijjarto also discussed bilateral relations with China and its cooperation in regional issues. He praised China’s efforts to seek a political solution to the Ukraine crisis and said that Hungary appreciated its support. The minister also discussed the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region, saying that while Kiev at high-level meetings regularly promises to treat them better, they are still in a vulnerable position.
In other diplomatic news, Szijjarto met on Monday with Russia’s deputy prime minister in charge of energy Aleksander Novak and with head of the state-owned Russian nuclear company Rosatom Alexei Likhachev. He stressed that Hungary’s energy supply depends on the stable delivery of raw materials and assured Russia that Hungary would continue to work with them in order to preserve the status quo.
Szijjarto has been a member of the parliament for the Fidesz party since 2002, and began his fifth term in office in 2018. He was the party’s communications director from 2006 to 2010, and the prime minister’s spokesperson between 2010 and 2012. He also served as a leader of the Fidesz branch in the Gyor region until he became the party’s national spokesman in 2014. A former professional futsal player, Szijjarto holds an engineering degree from the Faculty of Foreign Affairs at the Budapest University of Economics Sciences and Public Administration.
Polish President Andrzej Duda
Duda has become a controversial figure in Poland, where critics accuse him of being increasingly authoritarian. He has led a government that has been accused of undermining democracy and press freedom in the country. He has criticized journalists and politicians who question his actions. He has also been criticized for using the internet to attack his political rivals. In addition to censoring the media and critics, the president has been known to use phone-patrolled pegasus spyware to spy on his opponents.
The Polish president has denied using the tool, but it is believed that he does. The company that created the software says that it is used by the Mexican and Moroccan governments to monitor the phones of prominent members of their countries. It was also used by the Argentine and Uruguayan governments to spy on opposition politicians and activists.
According to the Polish news website Gazeta Wyborcza, the president has used pegasus spyware to spy on the phones of his political opponents. The software allows the president to track conversations on the mobile phone and can even record audio and video from the device’s microphone. It can also detect GPS locations and track a person’s movements on the map. The president’s aides have denied the allegations.
A former journalist and entrepreneur, Duda entered politics in the early 2000s. He first served in the parliament as a representative of the now defunct Freedom Union Party and later became a member of the Sejm, Poland’s lower house. He joined the Law and Justice Party in 2005 and was elected to the presidency in 2011. During his term, he has taken on the role as an advocate for his party’s interests.
In the spring of 2021, he declared a state of emergency in areas along the border with Belarus, citing a surge in illegal migration. The declaration was opposed by many in the country and caused tension between the ruling party and its critics.
On Friday, he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in a bid to further improve ties with the Asian giant. During the meeting, Xi said that the two countries view each other as long-term strategic partners and that the Belt and Road Initiative will benefit Polish companies. Xi also praised Duda’s leadership in tackling global challenges.