Home / Business / Israeli Cyber-Intelligence Firm Denies Role in Khashoggi Murder, But Won't 'Deny or Confirm' Saudi Sales

Israeli Cyber-Intelligence Firm Denies Role in Khashoggi Murder, But Won't 'Deny or Confirm' Saudi Sales



Journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2011.
Photo: Virginia Mayo (AP)

One of the co-founders of the Israeli cyber-intelligence firm behind the powerful phone surveillance software Pegasus, NSO Group, has been involved in the Saudi Arabian government's torture and murder or journalist in self-imposed exile Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, the Times of Israel reported on Saturday. However, they would not clarify whether the Saudi government was a possession of the Pegasus system.

Shalev Hulio said in a "rare interview" that his products were only used to track terrorists and criminals and that any misuse would be detected and Quoted, The Times wrote:

"There was no use on Khashoggi, including listening, monitoring, tracking, collecting info with any product or technology of NSO," Shalev Hulio told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in a strange interview … " In the last half of the company's products have been part of several large terror attacks in Europe, both with car bombs and suicide bombers, ”Hulio said.

… Added any use of NSO products for activities other than crime and terrorism prevention results in "immediate sanctions by the company, decisively and without compromise."

Pegasus, a spyware program, uses flaws called "zero day" vulnerabilities – ones that software vendo rs lacks prior awareness of – to gain access to the inner workings of mobile devices. Programs like it can be used to access everything from cellular microphones and cameras to keyboards and stored data, according to CNN. The network reported that Toronto's Citizen Lab have tracked the use of Pegasus to at least 45 countries that "may be conducting surveillance operations," including 10 that "appear to be actively engaged in cross-border surveillance." Saudi officials targeted dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who lives in Canada under an asylum program and communicated with Khashoggi via the encrypted WhatsApp messaging service, and those messages were compromised. CNN wrote:

In the case of Khashoggi, Citizen Lab researchers say the text message went to Abdulaziz, disguised as a shipping update about a package he had just ordered. The link, which Citizen Lab says it traced to a domain connected to Pegasus, led to Abdulaziz's phone becoming infected with the malware, giving hackers access to virtually his entire phone, including his daily conversations with Khashoggi.

In one text, before His death on October 2 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Khashoggi learned that his conversations with Abdulaziz may have been intercepted. "God help us," he wrote.

As CNN previously reported, Khashoggi was much more critical of infamously repressive Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman in his messages to Abdulaziz than he was in his columns for the Washington Post, referring to him as a "beast" and stating that "the more victims he eats, the more he wants." These messages may have served as a pretext for Saudi officials to carry out their torture and execution.

According to CNN when asked whether NSO Group sold Pegasus to Saud al-Qahtani, a high-ranking and allegedly brutal political adviser to the prince, Hulio denied any such sale. However, they refused to say whether or not NSO Group had sold the software to the Saudi government in general:

"All sales are authorized by Israel's Defense Ministry and are only made to states and their police and law enforcement organizations," he said. said, and "only for use fighting terrorism and crime."

Asked point blank if NSO Group sold the system to Saudi Arabia, Hulio said. We can neither deny nor confirm. ”

A Washington Post report in December 2018, citing“ three forms U.S. officials, "stated that Saudi officials had shown significant interest in Pegasus and worked with a Luxembourg-based NSO affiliate named Q Cyber ​​to acquire it:

arose with cyber-monitoring systems. Q promised that it could access targets in a half-boxes Middle Eastern countries, as well as many of the biggest nations in Europe. Some Israelis were concerned about sharing these super-secret capabilities with a leading Arab nation, but two knowledgeable forms U.S. Officials have been approved by the Israeli government.

As Gizmodo previously reported in November 2018, human rights non-profit Amnesty International has asked the Israeli government to revoke NSO Group's export licenses after reports the firm had with Saudi officials and that Pegasus was used to target its workers. Abdulaziz is also suing NSO Group, saying it is violated international law by selling its cyber-intelligence tools to repressive governments. Per the Times, his suit was filed in Tel Aviv and was asking for $ 160,000 in damages as well as "ordering NSO from selling its technology to Saudi Arabia."

In a statement to the Post last month, and NSO Group spokesperson said: "While being a matter of security, we will not discuss whether or not government has licensed our technology, this lawsuit is completely unfounded. It shows no evidence that the company's technology was used and appears to be based on a collection of so-called reports and articles that have been generated for the sole purpose of creating news headlines that do not reflect the reality of NSO's work. ] "We follow an extremely rigorous protocol for licensing our products – which are only provided after a full vetting as well as licensing by the Israeli government," the spokesperson added.

[Times of Israel/CNN]


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