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Israel sold spyware to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain

August 24, 2020 at 9:09 am

Building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel has sold spyware to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain helping them monitor the activities of dissidents, Haaretz reported yesterday.

According to the paper, the Israeli firm NSO Group Technologies, whose software is used to hack mobile phones, has over the past few years sold its Pegasus spyware for hundreds of millions of dollars to the UAE and other Gulf States.

These states use the Israeli spyware to monitor anti-regime activists, Haaretz said, with the encouragement and the approval of the Israeli government.

Chaim Levinson wrote to Haaretz that NSO “is one of the most active Israeli companies in the Gulf, and its Pegasus 3 software permits law enforcement authorities to hack into cellphones, copy their contents and sometimes even to control their camera and audio recording capabilities.”

The company works only with state authorities, according to Levinson, “but it doesn’t distinguish between democracies and dictatorships, as in the Gulf; despite its claims, it does little to supervise how its technology is used.”

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“Israel,” Levinson said, “put NSO in touch with Arab states in the region, and Israeli representatives even took part in marketing meetings between intelligence officials in the Arab states and NSO executives. Some of the meetings were held in Israel.”

Levinson said that NSO makes hundreds of billions from the sale of spyware to Arab countries.

He said: “Every Gulf state has a nickname based on the first letter of the country’s name and an automotive manufacturer: Saudi Arabia is called Subaru, Bahrain is BMW and Jordan is Jaguar. The practice within NSO is to use these names rather than the country’s real name.”

Regarding Qatar, Haaretz said, NSO does not do business with it because Israel prohibits it.