Palestinian Activists Hacked By Israel's Blacklisted NSO Group Spyware

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Nov 09, 2021 - 01:45 PM

At a moment the Israeli government is said to be lobbying the Biden administration to reverse its recent blacklisting of surveillance company NSO Group, which produced the controversial Pegasus spyware that infiltrated the personal phones of world leaders, activists and officials - including French President Emmanuel Macron - a new report has found at least six Palestinian rights activists were also targeted and hacked by the Israeli technology.

"Cellphones belonging to at least six Palestinian rights activists were hacked using the contentious Israeli cyber-surveillance firm NSO Group’s Pegasus software, according to independent investigations published Monday by the University of Toronto and Amnesty International," writes The Times of Israel.

Image via Politico

The investigation into the six Palestinians' phones confirmed the infiltration of the phones using Pegasus, however wasn't able to specify who exactly was behind it - but activists are pointing to the most immediate and obvious culprit of Israel and its military and intelligence services.

NSO Group works with governments around the world, but authorities in Tel Aviv must first approve export license's for the software. The technology is treated and overseen in the same way defense technology and weaponry is.

Pro-Palestinian activists say the export licensing requirement alone points to the Israeli government being behind the Palestinian leaders' phones. The Times of Israel details further:

The report did not specify who was behind the alleged hacking, but NSO Group’s export license prohibits the firm from allowing foreign customers to hack Israeli phones — indicating that either NSO Group violated its license or that the hacking was done by Israel, in what would be the first documented case of the technology being used against phones served by Israeli carriers.

Three of targeted individuals in question allegedly belong to outlawed groups that are associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and its Western allies. 

Meanwhile, Israel has argued that it only uses and exports Pegasus for legitimate defense and surveillance purposes, including counterterrorism - and not for suppressing human rights or eavesdropping on world leaders. 

Last week a US Commerce Dept. statement blacklisting both NSO group and another Israeli company called Candiru blasted that the spyware is being given to "foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers."

Israel is now said to be aggressively behind the scenes seeking a Biden administration reversal of the move, saying the hacking technology remains "of great importance to the national security of both countries," according to an Israeli report. Washington, meanwhile, is worried the technology will fall into the hands of malign governments only seeking to oppress activists or get a leg up on their rivals.