In a major security breach, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted that his Whatsapp was hacked.
Speaking to the media, President Ramaphosa said that his Whatsapp number was used to solicit money from different people.
“I found that my WhatsApp number and my photograph was being used to solicit money from a number of people”, he said in a video seen by Harare Live.
Ramaphosa said that one of his friends called him telling him that he is supposed to send him money.
President Cyril Ramaphosa confirms that his WhatsApp Number was used to solicit money.
— News Live SA (@newslivesa) July 9, 2023
President Cyril Ramaphosa is reportedly one of the world leaders who was targeted in a spyware case back in 2021.
According to the Guardian, Ramaphosa’s cellphone number was listed as a potential target for surveillance in the Pegasus spyware case.
He was reportedly among 14 heads of state to be targeted, including Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and French President Emmanuel Macron.
When approached for comment, Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said “the Presidency has no comment on this matter.”
The list is believed to indicate those identified as persons of interest by government clients of Israeli spyware firm NSO Group. According to forensic analysis of their phones, some names on the list were targeted for surveillance, the Guardian reported.
The Israeli company sells surveillance technology to governments worldwide, according to IOL. One of its products is Pegasus, spyware that reportedly targets iPhones and Android devices and allows users to secretly data or activate microphones and cameras.
However, NSO told the Guardian that just because a number had appeared on the leaked list, it did not mean it had been subjected to a hack. The company also said it requires government clients to use Pegasus for legitimate investigations into terrorism or crime.
The report said that Ramaphosa appeared to have been selected by Rwanda in 2019.
The country has reportedly been identified as a client of NSO, having used the Pegasus software. Other targets, seemingly selected by Rwanda, have also been listed.
These reportedly include Ruhakana Rugunda when he served as the Ugandan prime minister and Carine Kanimba, daughter of imprisoned Rwandan activist Paul Rusesabagina.
However, a spokesperson for the Rwandan government told the Guardian that the country did not use the software or have the technological capabilities.
According to an analysis carried out by Amnesty International’s Security Lab, Pegasus has also reportedly been traced to the phones of almost 40 human rights activists, journalists and lawyers.