An Israeli commission reviewing allegations that its clients misused NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to target journalists and human rights activists will examine whether rules on the export of cyber weapons from Israel such as Pegasus should be stricter, said a senior parliamentarian.
The move came when French President Emmanuel Macron called an emergency meeting on cybersecurity after they reported that his mobile phone and those of government ministers appeared on the leaked list.
NSO has said that Macron was not a “target” of any of its clients, which means The company denies that it was selected for surveillance using its spyware, saying in multiple statements that it requires its government clients to only use its powerful spy tools for legitimate terrorism or crime investigations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also added her voice to the growing controversy on Thursday, telling reporters in Berlin that spyware like the NSO should be denied to countries where there was no judicial oversight after it emerged that 14 heads of state were on the list.
When asked if she regretted that the technology sold by the NSO Group had helped undermine freedom of expression in countries ruled by autocratic regimes, Merkel said: “I think it is important that software developed for certain situations does not fall into the wrong hands. There must be restrictive conditions and such software must not be sold to countries where judicial oversight of such attacks cannot be guaranteed. “
The mounting fallout from the Pegasus project revelations, a collaboration of 17 media organizations including The Guardian, which launched Sunday with a series of claims about misuse of the software, have continued to resonate.
In Israel, the prospect of tighter controls on the export of spyware such as Pegasus was raised by Ram Ben-Barak, head of the parliament’s defense and foreign affairs committee, and former deputy director of the Mossad spy agency, on Army Radio, as revealed. that the “country’s defense system [has] appointed a review commission made up of various groups ”.
“We certainly have to look again at this whole issue of the licenses granted by DECA. [Israel’s Defence Exports Control Agency], “he said.” When they finish their review, we will demand to see the results and assess whether we need to make corrections. “
DECA is within the Israel Ministry of Defense and oversees NSO exports. Both the ministry and the company have said that Pegasus is intended to be used to track terrorists and criminals only, and that all foreign customers are vetted governments.
At the heart of the project is a leaked database of some 50,000 mobile phone numbers. The Guardian and other media partners who had access to the data as a party believe the list indicates persons of interest selected by government clients of NSO. It includes some people whose phones showed traces of NSO’s Pegasus spyware, based on forensic analysis of their devices.
However, the appearance of a number in the leaked list does not mean that it was the subject of a successful hacking attempt.
NSO says the database is “irrelevant” to the company and has rejected the Pegasus project reports as “full of erroneous assumptions and unsubstantiated theories.” He denied that the leaked database represented the Pegasus software’s surveillance targets.
The alleged misuse has raised questions within Naftali Bennett’s cross-partisan coalition, one of whose members, the liberal Meretz party, asked Defense Minister Benny Gantz about NSO exports in a meeting Thursday.
Gantz “emphasized the importance of defending human rights in the framework of arms sales,” said a joint statement.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism