• Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

Report: Israel’s NSO Group blocks several clients from using spyware

  • Published at 04:33 pm July 30th, 2021
Pegasus
A stand of the Israeli firm known for its Pegasus spyware, at the annual European Police Congress in Berlin, Germany REUTERS

The decision comes amid allegations that the company’s Pegasus spyware was used to conduct surveillance on several politicians, journalists and activists around the world

Israeli surveillance company NSO Group has temporarily blocked several clients from using its technologies as it investigates claims of misuse, American non-profit media organisation NPR reported on Thursday, quoting an employee.

The decision came in the wake of allegations that the company’s spyware, Pegasus, was used to conduct surveillance on several politicians, journalists and activists around the world, including India.

The NSO Group has said that it sells its “technologies solely to law enforcement and intelligence agencies of vetted governments”. The company also claims that the Pegasus spyware is meant to target criminals.

The alleged misuse of the spyware came to light earlier this month when Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International accessed a database featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers “concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens”.

Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International shared the list with Indian news website The Wire and 16 other media organisations across the world, who did extensive reporting on the matter. Their investigation is called the Pegasus Project.

An unidentified employee of the firm on Thursday said that the company was cooperating with the investigation of the Israeli officials. The employee also told NPR that the company is trying to prove to Israeli officials that the individuals named in the media reports are not Pegasus targets.


Also Read - Is your phone at risk of Pegasus spying?


The employee spoke anonymously as the NSO Group’s policy states that the company “will no longer be responding to media inquiries on this matter and it will not play along with the vicious and slanderous campaign” against it.

The employee also said that it cannot name any of the government agencies that can no longer access technologies of the NSO Group as Israel’s defence regulations prohibit it from identifying any clients.

NSO Group, however, has said that it has 60 customers in 40 countries. The company said that in recent years, before the current allegations of misuse, it had blocked from five governmental agencies after finding evidence. The suspended clients include Saudi Arabia, Dubai and some public agencies in Mexico, according to The Washington Post.

NSO Group general counsel Shmuel Sunray said the scrutiny faced by the company was unfair as it was itself conducting an investigation on the alleged misuse of its technologies.

“What we [NSO Group] are doing is, what I think today is, the best standard that can be done,” Sunray told NPR. “We are on the one hand, I think, the world leaders in our human rights compliance, and the other hand we are the poster child of human rights abuse.”


Also Read - Israel appoints task force over NSO spyware allegations


Earlier on Thursday, France’s cybersecurity agency confirmed that the Pegasus spyware was present on the phone of two journalists from the country’s online investigative journal Mediapart. This is the first corroboration of the alleged surveillance row by a government agency globally.

World leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan are also among the list of potential targets of the spyware, according to The Wire.

The Indian part of the list includes phone numbers used by at least 40 Indian journalists, Opposition leaders including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, two Union ministers and virologist Gagandeep Kang. Former Election Commissioner of India Ashok Lavasa and an ex-Supreme Court staffer who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment also featured on the list.

NSO has, however, maintained that reports about the misuse of Pegasus spyware were “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories”. Israeli defence ministry officials on Wednesday inspected the offices of NSO Group on the surveillance allegations.

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail