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Israel Exonerates Police in NSO Group Pegasus Spyware Phone Hacking Scandal

NSO Group

Shalev Hulio CEO NSO Group (LinkedIn)

Israel police did not illegally use the Pegasus spyware made by cyber security firm NSO Group. An investigating commission from the Israel Justice Ministry found that the country’s police did not hack people’s phones without a proper warrant as had been charged, but that they did, in some cases, exceed the authority granted them by courts to collect information.

This may put to rest an 8 month long scandal that erupted in January, 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.

Israeli Cybersecurity firm NSO Group develops ways to break through encryptions and security systems. In July 2021, it was revealed that NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware software aids in the violation of people’s human rights around the world and that the company has known all about this. Specifically, they were charged with helping governments hack the telephones of journalists.

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NSO Group was blacklisted by the U.S. government in November over accusations that allowed its software to be used in the hacking of American diplomats. And in December it was reported that NSO Group Pegasus spyware was used to track American embassy employees in East Africa. Specifically, 11 U.S. Embassy employees working in Uganda had their iPhones hacked by the program.

Israel’s Minister of Public Security Omer Barlev who overseas its police department was happy with the findings of the commission.

“The findings do not surprise me, since throughout the period I supported and came to the defense of the police, despite the criticism directed at me,” said Barlev. “I support the police officers of the Israel Police who lead with dedication and commitment a determined and important fight against crime.”

He also stated that the “falsified publications caused great damage” to both the Israel Police and Israeli democracy.”

The police issued a statement declaring that the report states that they acted in all cases subject to court orders. No spying on citizens was carried out, no “extraction” of cellular devices was carried out, and the allegations against the police in relation to the published list of individuals – were refuted

Israel Police promised to take action in response to the charges of misconduct made in the report.



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