Spyware Scandal Grows in Hungary With More Than 100 Targets

(Bloomberg) — Hungary targeted more than 100 people with the Pegasus spyware, according to the head of parliament’s national security committee, widening a scandal surrounding a tool the government initially denied knowledge of using.

The revelations may pose an additional threat to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s re-election prospects five months before a parliamentary ballot, with most polls showing his ruling Fidesz party trailing a united opposition. The alliance of his rivals parties have pointed to the scandal as new evidence of Orban’s authoritarian tilt in the European Union member state.

Further details about the spyware’s deployment will be made public before the elections, Janos Stummer, an opposition member who chairs parliament’s national security committee, said in an interview published on Sunday on YouTube.

“When, against whom, with what authority and for what time period was this software used?” Stummer said, listing what he said were the most important questions the government must answer.

An investigation by The Washington Post and its media partners in July showed Orban’s government deployed NSO Group Ltd.’s Pegasus spyware against a media tycoon, an opposition politician, lawyers and at least five journalists. 

While the government initially said it had “no knowledge” of having procured Pegasus, a senior ruling party official confirmed to reporters last week that authorities had bought and used the spyware. Stummer also confirmed it on Sunday, adding that Hungary’s contract with NSO was still valid. 

Hungary is locked in a rule-of-law standoff with the EU, which has delayed the arrival of billions of euros of the bloc’s funding.

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