In the summer of 2020, an investigation from CitizenLab exposed the use of “Pegasus spyware” to spy on the archives, photographs, web browsing history, emails and other data of pro-independence Catalan politicians and activists, including the Catalan Parliament president Roger Torrent. President Torrent’s phone would have been infiltrated through a missed call to his Whatsapp in 2019, and he immediately pointed out that the Spanish state was behind the attack on his phone, and that he believed it had most likely occurred without a court order. In fact, according to a former NSO employee, the spyware was acquired by Spanish security services through its Ministry of Interior in 2015.
The NSO Group itself offered states, as part of the pandemic management services, a new big data analysis tool to map the movement of people and their contacts, with the aim of helping to curb the virus. In recent times, activists and lawyers have detected an adaptation of classic techniques such as police monitoring of the digital environment through the use of phishing technologies, mail spoofing and digital infiltration through e-mail and messaging networks such as Whatsapp or Telegram. In October 2020, the grassroots Catalan newspaper La Directa released information concerning the spoofing of at least 11 email accounts of political organisations, youth movements, community meeting places and housing unions. More than 60 fake emails were sent with the clear objective of gathering information on the activities and internal documents of these organisations.