A huge spying scandal has erupted in Spain at the end of June, just a few days before the general elections.
Público news website has published leaked recordings of conversations between the interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz and the head of Catalonia’s anti-fraud office, Daniel de Alfonso. These two officials seem to openly discuss how to incriminate politicians from rival parties and launch investigations them for purported corruption.
The publication of these calls immediately caused chaos in the Spanish political scene. Leaders of opposition parties accused the police and parts of the government of leading a dirty war against them. They also demanded that the interior minister resign immediately due to him effectively using his post to investigate political rivals. The minister Fernandez Diaz, however, refused to quit his post and instructed the police to investigate how the conversations have been recorded and leaked to the media.
And that’s indeed very unusual. Two high-status politicians meet and privately discuss tactics, yet their conversation is secretly recorded and leaked to the press. How could that happen?
Spanish publication EL ESPAÑOL has described three different ways in which this conversation could have been recorded.
1. A “Zombie” Phone
Daniel de Alfonso, the head of Catalonia’s anti-fraud office and the other participant of the controversial conversation, says that “if it’s been recorded by some device, it must have been my phone which was being monitored”. He suspects that a spy software has been installed on his phone, something which according to experts converts a phone into a “zombie phone”.
According to a computer crime expert Miguel Araluce, “there is a very high probability of iPhones being in the office where the conversation took place”. Araluce is focusing on Trojans like FlexiSpy – the most famous of them – which are able to convert an iPhone into a room bugging device.
From this perspective, it has recently come to light that various security organizations in Spain, like the police and the civil guard have been purchasing phone monitoring software from the Hacking Team, one of the biggest cyber security contractors in Europe.
However, these government organizations only use the Hacking Team software with a judge’s permission to fight against crime, according to their claims.
By all means, it is possible that one of the phones in the office had spyware installed on it and served as a bugging device.
2. A microphone in Fernandez Diaz’s office
Daniel de Alfonso refers to “absolute clarity” of the sound in leaked recordings. Something which, in his opinion, cannot be achieved with a mobile phone’s microphone. He also asserted in an interview that during the meeting he had left his smartphone in a suitcase, something which would affect the recording’s quality.
He tends to blame the nationalist parties for waging a “dirty war” to control his anti-corruption office, and believes that they have placed a microphone in the office to record the meeting.
3. Daniel de Alfonso behind the Recording?
Even though he swore on his life that he had never recorded any conversations with the minister, the Parliament of Catalonia has decided to dismiss Daniel de Alfonso from his position.
And Carlos Enrique Bayo, the director of Público, the website which has broken the story, claims that de Alfonso did admit on the phone that the recordings had been conducted by him.