EU Parliament tells Nicosia to combat spyware

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The European Parliament has adopted the findings of an inquiry commissioned to investigate the use of surveillance software among EU member states, which implicated Cyprus as an export hub for spyware.

MEPs called on Nicosia to repeal spyware export permits and fully investigate allegations of illegitimate use.

Cyprus had played a major role as an export hub for spyware used in eavesdropping cases that have shaken the EU noted a report by the EU Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware (PEGA).

The report and its recommendations were approved with 411 votes in favour, 97 against and 37 abstentions.

The committee flagged Cyprus’ involvement in the spy case that shook Greece, which saw spyware, namely Pegasus, used to monitor opposition party leaders and journalists.

It requested that further investigations be made into reported eavesdropping cases on journalists, lawyers, activists, and citizens in Cyprus.

The company which created the surveillance software in Greece was established by the former Israeli spy Tal Dilian, the main suspect in the Cyprus ‘black spy van’ case.

Headed by the former Israeli intelligence agent, WiSpear, a company specialised in providing end-to-end WiFi interception and security solutions, was reportedly the owner of the black van impounded in Cyprus.

Last year, the data protection watchdog imposed an administrative fine of €925,000 on WiSpear for GDPR violations.

As reported by the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), the European Parliament’s resolution specifically calls on Cyprus:

⦁ To thoroughly evaluate all export licenses issued for spyware and revoke them where appropriate

⦁ To thoroughly assess the shipment of spyware material within the EU internal market between Member States and map the various Israeli companies or companies owned and managed by Israeli citizens that are registered in Cyprus and involved in such activities

⦁ Make public the report of the Special Investigator on the Spyware Van case, as requested by the committee during its official mission to Cyprus

⦁ Fully investigate, with the assistance of Europol, all allegations of illegal use and export of spyware, in particular against journalists, lawyers, activists and Cypriot citizens

The overwhelming majority of the European Parliament Thursday approved the report of recommendations to Cyprus by the PEGA inquiry committee, including three out of six Cypriot MEPs.

Mainly members of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) of the Identity and Democracy (ID) parliamentary group voted against it.

Cypriot MEPs Demetris Papadakis, George Georgiou and Niazi Kizilyurek gave a positive vote. Eleni Stavrou, Loukas Fourlas and Costas Mavrides do not appear to have participated in the vote.