In January, a scandal erupted in Israel when a report in Calcalist revealed that the Israel Police had hacked the phones of many Israeli citizens, including politicians, without first acquiring the proper court orders for wiretapping as required by law. They used the Pegasus spyware made by NSO Group, which is widely regarded as one of the most powerful cyber-surveillance tools on the market, enabling operators to practically take complete control of a target’s phone, download any data from it, and activate the device’s camera or microphone without the target’s knowledge.
The report implied that the police had broken Israeli law. But an investigation by Israel’s Attorney General’s Office cleared the police and found that they had not used Pegasus without proper court authorizations or in any way in violation of the law.
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When the report was released, Israel’s Minister of Justice mentioned the findings while speaking to a delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organization in Jerusalem. “It is now clear that the newspaper report 15 days ago was incorrect and certainly not accurate,” Sa’ar told the delegation. “It is clear that there is no need for the dramatic step of establishing a state commission of inquiry.”
“The thorough investigation that was carried out pulls the rug out from under another attempt to discredit the company and its workers and serves as additional proof that not every journalistic investigation with a sensational headline about NSO is indeed based on facts,” the NSO Group said in a statement. It also said of the Calcalist report that it was “not a journalistic investigation but a one-sided, biased and false publication.”
Whatever happens with this law suit, it will not do anything to undo the damage done to the company’s reputation around the world. NSO Group has been accused of letting dictators around the world use its Pegasus spyware to spy on political opponents and journalists by hacking their cell phones. The Pegasus spyware has also been linked to spying on American diplomats in Africa. And last year NSO Group was even blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department.