Israel Inspects NSO Group Headquarters Spyware Maker Pegasus


Israeli authorities are inspecting the NSO Group headquarters as part of an investigation into allegations that the Pegasus spyware project has been used to spy on activists, politicians, business executives and journalists.
The inspection was announced on Wednesday (28/7/201) in a tweet in Hebrew by the official Twitter account of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which said: "Representatives from a number of agencies came to the NSO today to examine the allegations made".

The Defense Ministry did not say which government agencies were involved in the investigation, but Israeli media previously reported that the foreign ministry, justice ministry, Mossad and military intelligence were involved in the NSO Group investigation. Reports say officials inspected the company's office in Herzliya near Tel Aviv.

The NSO group itself confirmed the inspection in a statement sent to the media. "We were able to confirm that representatives from the Israeli Ministry of Defense visited our office. We welcome their inspection," he said.

They also denied allegations that they had conducted unauthorized cell phone surveillance using their spyware. They made sure they would work transparently with the Israeli authorities.

“We are confident that this inspection will prove the facts as stated repeatedly by the company against the false allegations made against us in the recent media attacks,” the NSO Group said in a statement.

As is well known, an international media consortium last week published a list of 50,000 leaked phone numbers worldwide targeted by NSO customers for surveillance. Evidence of Pegasus spyware was found on 37 cell phones examined by forensic experts.

Journalists, businessmen, government critics and politicians are among those suspected of being targeted. The NSO says its software is only sold to government customers after being checked by Israeli authorities.

A report by Calcalis said the possibility of inspections by the authorities resulted in “large restrictions on very small NSOs”. It added that the defense ministry and the NSO have “complementary interests”, and authorities in the past have used “their power to protect companies from criticism and lawsuits”.

Calcalist also reported that inspections were coordinated with the NSO and did not include audits or inspections of computer systems or company documents.

The NSO group is facing increasing pressure from the global community, especially after a report from an international consortium reporter revealed that among the targeted calls for surveillance were calls by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and French President Emmanuel Macron. The French leader has called for an investigation.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz himself is scheduled to meet with French Defense Minister Florence Parly in Paris. He will give a brief explanation of the results of his team’s research related to NSO.

Gantz previously defended export licenses for hacking tools, saying in his speech at a cyber software conference in Tel Aviv last week that “countries that purchase these systems must meet the conditions of use”, which are only for criminal and terrorism investigations.
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