Israeli cyber-security firm NSO Group last week confirmed that it had blocked a number of foreign government clients from accessing is Pegasus spyware platform amid allegations they had used the software to target journalists, dissidents and human rights activists.
“There is an investigation into some clients. Some of those clients have been temporarily suspended,” a company source told National Public Radio in the US. The source asserted, however, that so far an internal investigation had shown no connection between illicit behavior and the Pegasus software.
According to an international media probe, a list of some 50,000 individuals targeted by Pegasus had been leaked, and included not only journalists, dissidents and human rights activists, but even some heads of state, like French President Emmanuel Macron.
Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz flew to Paris last week to ease tensions, and assured his hosts that Macron had not been targeted by Pegasus, which has the ability to activate a mobile phone’s camera and microphone and to harvest all available data for its operators.
The software has been licensed to government agencies from many countries, including some with spotty human rights records.
Still, Gantz insisted in an official statement that “the State of Israel approves the export of cyber products exclusively to governmental entities, for lawful use and only for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime and counter-terrorism.”
Pegasus is classified as a cyber weapon, and as such its licensing to foreign customers requires Ministry of Defense approval.
For more on this topic, see: What Are Israelis Saying About the NSO Spyware Scandal?