Israeli tech company NSO Group, which has attracted global attention, including in India, amid allegations of misuse of its controversial Pegasus spyware, apparently has a significant presence in the European Union with at least 22 contracts covering 12 of the 27 member states, according to a media report said on Wednesday.
Pegasus spyware and competing products make it possible to infect the cell phone of the surveillance victim, and then allow the operator to eavesdrop on conversations, read applications with encrypted messages, and provide full access to contacts and files on the device.
It allows you to listen in real time to what is happening around the mobile phone by operating the camera and the microphone.
Representatives of the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Pegasus spyware recently visited Israel and learned from ONS staff that the company has active contracts with 12 members of the European Union, the report reported. Ha’aretz daily.
The Israel Cyberwar Society’s responses to the committee’s questions, which were obtained by the newspaper, reveal that the company now works with 22 security and law enforcement organizations in the EU, it added. .
Company representatives in their conversations and exchanges with PTI have maintained that their spyware is used by “government clients” to target terrorists and other serious crimes.
Members of the European Parliament’s inquiry committee who came to Israel were said to have been surprised to discover contracts with their country of origin.
Committee officials have traveled to Israel in recent weeks “to learn more about the local cyber warfare industry” and held discussions with NSO employees, Israeli Ministry of Defense officials and experts local.
Among the committee members was a Catalan lawmaker whose mobile phone was hacked by an ONS client, the report notes.
“The committee was created after the publication of Project Pegasus last year, and its objective is to create pan-European regulations for the acquisition, import and use of cyber warfare software such as Pegasus,” the report said. .
“But while the committee members were in Israel, and particularly since their return to Brussels, it has come to light that Europe also has a well-developed cyber warfare industry and that many of its customers are European countries,” did he declare.
EU lawmakers were tasked with knowing the identities of NSO’s customers in Europe at present and were surprised to find that most EU countries had contracts with the company: 14 countries have done business with NSO in the past and at least 12 still use Pegasus for lawful interception of mobile calls, according to NSO’s response to committee questions.
In response to questions from lawmakers, the company explained that NSO currently works with 22 “end-user” security and intelligence organizations and law enforcement authorities in 12 European countries.
In some countries, there is more than one customer as they are with operating organizations, according to the report.
In the past, according to NSO’s submission, the company has worked with two other countries with which ties have now been severed. NSO did not disclose which countries are active customers and with which two countries the contract has been frozen, he said.
NSO reportedly did not respond to Haaretz’s request for comment.
Israel earlier in January this year distanced itself from the controversy sparked by the blacklisting of the NSO group after allegations of illegal use of its Pegasus spyware to target government officials, activists and journalists around the world, claiming that it is a private company and has nothing to do with Israeli government policy.
“NSO is a private company, it is not a government project and therefore even if it is designated, it has nothing to do with Israeli government policy,” Yair Lapid, then Israeli minister, told reporters. of Foreign Affairs and now Prime Minister. conference days after the company was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce.
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