According to a report by Washington Post Israeli government was directly involved in the sell of NSO‘s sophisticated spyware Pegasus, a patch of highly complicated software used for hacking and espionage, to Saudi Arabia. The two American sources told the Post that the Saudis worked through a Luxembourg-based affiliate of NSO called Q Cyber Technologies.
The technology enabled Riyadh to target individuals and entities in six Middle Eastern countries and directly assisted them in solving problems with the cyber-monitoring systems that they provided, the report said.
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Saudi Former U.S. officials tell the Washington Post that Israel approved the transaction in return for Riyadh‘s discreet support for the Israeli struggle against Iran. Saudi sources reported that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was interested in purchasing the technology because he was impressed by Israel’s cyber capabilities.
According to the report, Saudi dissident figures revealed how their phones had been hacked as part of Saudi government’s extensive use of Pegasus.
Saudi activist from Canada Omar Abdulaziz has launched a legal action against the NSO after it was revealed that it was the hacking of his phone conversations and chats with slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that led to his assassination in Turkey in early October.
In an interview with the CNN Abdulaziz said “The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say. The guilt is killing me.”
Abdulaziz is demanding about $160,000 in damages and an order preventing the company from selling its technology to Saudi Arabia.
In response to an Haaretz query, Israel’s Defense Ministry stated that “the Defense Export Control Agency (DECA) strictly provides licenses to security exporters in accordance to the law, the standards and the commitments that the State of Israel is committed to, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government entities. The Defense Ministry does not provide details about the Israeli government’s policy on giving export licenses or about the licenses themselves for defense and strategic reasons. For this reason, we cannot comment on the question whether the aforementioned license exists.”