Israel Cybersecurity firm NSO Group which develops ways to break through encryptions and security systems was accused by Amnesty International and Microsoft of helping governments hack the telephones of journalists. Specifically, NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware software is said to be used by nefarious regimes to hack into the cell phones and computers of journalists and political opponents alike. Now the Israel Ministry of Defense is conducting its own investigation into the matter.
NSO Group develops cybersecurity technology to help government agencies detect and prevent terrorism and crime. Its products are used by licensed government intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. NSO boasts that its technology has helped prevent terrorism, break up criminal operations, find missing persons, and assist search and rescue teams.
But now many governments around the world fear that the company has knowingly provided its tech to those using it for nefarious purposes. Even French President Emmanuel Macron says that NSO’s Pegasus spyware was used in an attempt to hack his own phone. President Macron has even spoken on the telephone with Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to complain about the matter.
Last week the Israel Ministry of Defense released a statement on the matter saying, “If it becomes clear that use was made in contravention of the terms of the license [held by NSO Group] or declarations by acquiring governments, then appropriate measures would be taken.”
Today, Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz himself has confirmed that certain “investigators” from his ministry have made a visit to NSO Group’s offices. The Defense Minister is currently on an official visit to France and has met with his French counterpart Minister of Defense Florence Parly. The two discussed the NSO Group controversy, among other things.
Minister Gantz tweeted, “Regarding the NSO: We take the allegations seriously. Israel grants cyber licenses exclusively to countries that will use them for the purposes of dealing with terrorism and crime. Today, representatives [of the Israel Defense Ministry] came to the company who are examining the issue and we will examine the issue with the utmost seriousness.”
NSO Group has denied the claims that their Pegasus software was used in these attacks. “After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report. Their sources have supplied them with information which has no factual basis, as evident by the lack of supporting documentation for many of their claims,” read a statement released by NSO. “In fact, these allegations are so outrageous and far from reality, that NSO is considering a defamation lawsuit.”