(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s federal police arrested four people for allegedly hacking 1,000 cellphones belonging to various government officials, including that of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Police detective João Vianey Xavier Filho said the group hacked into the messaging apps of around 1,000 different cellphone numbers, but provided little additional information at a news conference in Brasilia on Wednesday. Cellphones used by Bolsonaro were among those attacked by the group, the justice ministry said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the president was informed of the security breach.
Bolsonaro called for harsh punishment for the alleged hackers and said in a Twitter post that he has “never dealt with sensitive or national security issues via cellphone.”
Economy Minister Paulo Guedes was another likely target as one of the arrested suspects had an account on his phone with Guedes’s name, Xavier said.
Police began investigating alleged hacker activity following the leaking of text messages between the anti-corruption judge turned Justice Minister Sergio Moro and the lead prosecutors in the Operation Carwash graft probe.
The publication of those private exchanges in The Intercept news website roiled the Brazilian government, raising questions about the impartiality of Moro, who sentenced former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to prison for corruption and money-laundering. Moro has questioned the authenticity of the published material, while also maintaining that the texts show no wrongdoing and that he has been the victim of criminal hackers.
But the leaks have undermined the approval rating of one of the most popular figures in the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, and government allies have threatened Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who founded The Intercept, with arrest or expulsion from Brazil.
In the court order determining the arrest of the four suspects, Judge Vallisney de Souza Oliveira wrote that the hackers had accessed Moro’s Telegram messaging app, along with those of two judges and two federal police officers. The judge also directed Google, Microsoft and Apple to provide suspects’ IP addresses, registration data, as well as all archives and data stored in the cloud.
Two of the suspects received hundreds of thousands of reais in their bank accounts over recent months, despite having monthly incomes totaling just 5,000 reais. The judge called for the funds received to be tracked to discover possible sponsors of the attack.
(Adds comment from Bolsonaro in third paragraph.)
--With assistance from Felipe Saturnino.
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