The founder of the Telegram messenger and the VKontakte social network, Pavel Durov, confirmed the information that his phone was being monitored using a spy app, as reported by The Guardian earlier.
“Since at least 2018, I have known that one of my phone numbers was included in the list of potential targets of such surveillance tools,” Durov wrote on his Telegram channel.
He added that this fact did not bother him in any way. Durov said that since 2011, when he was still living in Russia, he used to assume that all his phones were hacked. “Anyone who has access to my personal data will be extremely disappointed – they will have to go through thousands of conceptual projects for Telegram functions and millions of messages related to the development process of our product. They will not find any important information there, ”he said.
Commenting on an article by The Guardian, Durov said that spy apps can hack any phone on iOS and Android operating systems and there is no way to protect the device from doing so. “It doesn't matter what applications you use, because the system is hacked at a deeper level,” he said.
Durov recalled the revelations of former NSA agent Edward Snowden, who said in 2013 that Apple and Google corporations are part of a global surveillance program, which implies that these companies should, among other things, implement backdoors in their mobile operating systems. “These backdoors, usually disguised as security bugs, allow US intelligence agencies to access information from any smartphone in the world,” said the billionaire.
The problem with such backdoors, he said, is that they “are never meant for just one side.” “Anyone can use them. So if the US National Security Agency can jailbreak an iOS or Android phone, any other organization that finds backdoors can do the same. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what happened: the Israeli company NSO Group was selling access to espionage tools that allowed third parties to hack tens of thousands of phones, ”Durov wrote.
As the founder of Telegram emphasized, these same surveillance tools are used against people much more famous than himself. “For example, they were used to spy on the heads of 14 states. The existence of backdoors in critical infrastructure and software poses a huge challenge to humanity. This is why I urged governments around the world to take action against the Apple-Google duopoly in the smartphone market and force them to open up their closed ecosystems and create conditions for increased competition. I hope that the news that they themselves have become the target of these surveillance tools will induce politicians to change their minds, ”he concluded.
The Guardian newspaper wrote that Durov's phone could be monitored using the Pegasus spy application, which was developed by the Israeli NSO Group. The publication took part in the investigation initiated by the French non-profit organization Forbidden Stories. It was carried out jointly with the human rights organization Amnesty International and 17 journalistic organizations. The investigation claims that Israeli software has been used by authorities in more than a dozen countries to spy on journalists, civic activists, human rights defenders and officials around the world.
As the newspaper notes, since the beginning of 2018, Durov's British phone number has appeared in the database obtained by the authors of the investigation with the numbers of persons who were interested in NSO Group clients.
A source at The Guardian in the NSO Group stated that Durov was not the target of collecting information using a spy app. The company called allegations that the individuals named on the list on which the investigation is based could be victims of Pegasus or potential targets of surveillance, false and defamatory.
According to the newspaper, the targets of surveillance could include heads of state, government and international organizations, high-ranking politicians, the military and prominent journalists. In particular, the names of Presidents of France Emmanuel Macron and South Africa Cyril Ramaposa, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus and President of the European Council Charles Michel were named.