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Saudis sought to buy Israeli hacking system: Report

November 25, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Saudi Arabia has allegedly negotiated with an Israeli firm to buy an advanced system that hacks cell phones, Israeli daily Haaretz reported Sunday.

The newspaper said two representatives of Herzliya-based NSO Group Technologies met Saudi officials in Vienna in 2017 to promote the Pegasus 3 software.

Haaretz identified the two Saudi officials as Abdullah al-Malihi, an associate of Prince Turki al-Faisal – a former head of the kingdom’s intelligence services – and Nasser al-Qahtani, who presented himself as the deputy of the current intelligence chief.

During the meeting, the NSO representatives allegedly showed a PowerPoint presentation of the advanced cyber system’s capabilities.

The issue came to knowledge as part of a complaint filed to the Israeli police by a man identified as a European businessman with connection in the Gulf.

There was no comment from Saudi authorities on the allegation.

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NSO, for its part, said it “has according to the law and its products are used in the fight against crime and terror.”

Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower, claimed early this month that software made by an Israeli cyber security firm was used to track murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv via a video call from Russia, Snowden said Pegasus spyware sold to governments by the Israeli NSO Group Technologies was used to track opponents.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, weeks later the Saudi administration admitted he was killed there, blaming a rogue group of Saudi operatives.

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.