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Israel investigates NSO over spyware scandal

An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
Building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Following complaints from journalists, politicians and human rights defenders of being tracked by Israeli spyware Pegasus, the Israeli government has launched an investigation into Pegasus parent firm NSO, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

Representatives from the Israeli Defence Ministry visited the NSO headquarters on Tuesday, a statement, which did not state the target offices, announced.

According to the statement, the purpose of the visit was to begin assessing the security breach allegations brought against NSO's Pegasus.

According to Israeli media, the start of the investigations coincided with a 10-hour visit of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz to Paris.

During the visit, Israeli media reported, Gantz aimed to convey that spyware sold by Israel did not hack the phone of President Emmanuel Macron, Israeli Channel 13 reported.

While in Paris, Gantz met with his counterpart Florence Parly and reassured that: "Israel is taking the allegations seriously."

READ: Pegasus spyware and the consequences for privacy

Gantz's office also confirmed: "He also informed Minister Parly that officials visited NSO's office today (Tuesday) and that Israel is investigating the allegations thoroughly."

NSO has asserted that its product was intended only for use by credible government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.

Commenting on the Israeli spyware scandal, Judah Ari Gross wrote in The Times of Israel: "It is a practice that stretches back decades and crosses political lines, with left-wing governments under Yitzhak Rabin allegedly signing off on sales to South Africa during apartheid."

This act, according to Gross, was repeated: "Later to Rwanda and Bosnia during genocides there in the 1990s, and to more recent cases of right-wing governments under Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly approving defence exports to Myanmar and South Sudan during ethnic cleansings and massacres there."

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