Poland's audit office says it was target of extensive surveillance

Leszek Szymański/PAP

Poland's Supreme Audit Office (NIK) has said it was hit by thousands of hacking incidents and was checking whether they were linked to the recent spyware scandal involving the Pegasus system.

The Citizen Lab Research Laboratory, a specialist IT department at the University of Toronto, confirmed in late December that Israeli-made Pegasus software had been used to hack the mobile phones of a number of people linked to Poland's government's opponents.

The head of the NIK, Marian Banas, has been at odds with Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party since late 2019 and his office has performed a number of audits and issued several reports unfavourable for the government and its agencies.

On Friday, a private radio broadcaster RMF FM reported, citing the unofficial preliminary findings of the cybersecurity team at the audit office, that NIK employees have been subject to more than 6,000 attempted online attacks with Israeli-developed spyware affecting more than 500 mobile devices in the last two years.

"NIK experts are still working on the data they obtained and their interpretation," the radio said.

NIK spokesperson Lukasz Pawelski stipulated later on Friday that it would be premature to say whether Pegasus was used for the attacks.

"Currently, we cannot finally confirm whether these were activities carried out by the Polish government or were carried out with the use of given software," he said.

"We are initially talking about at least a certain number of activities and this data may change," Pawelski added.

He said that NIK was in constant contact with the Citizen Lab and would hold a press conference on the findings on Monday.

Meanwhile, Stanislaw Zaryn, the director of Poland National Security Department, denied the new allegations on Friday night.

"The insinuations inspired by Marian Banas concerning the alleged surveillance of NIK employees by the special services... are false," he said in a statement posted on the Prime Minister's Office website.

Welcome to The First News weekly newsletter

Every Friday catch up on our editor’s top pick of news about Poland, including politics, business, life and culture. To receive your free email subscription, sign up today.