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Scandal in Israel: they reveal a vast network of espionage to politicians and citizens with the Pegasus program

The government of Israel assured that “it will not” leave “without an answer” but that it will act before the scandal of police espionage to politicians, journalists and businessmen from around the world using the Pegasus software, the subject of new revelations of dozens of citizens targeted by Israeli police whose phones were hacked by NSO spyware and their personal information stolen and archived.

According to the business daily Calcalist, the Israeli police had reportedly hacked the phones of public figures, journalists and environment members of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu through the Pegasus program, accusations considered “very serious” by the current head of government Naftali Bennet.

After the first Calcalist revelations, which prompted the justice to open an investigation on January 20, the police recognized last week have used computer espionage technologies “without mandate”although without mentioning the Pegasus program, of the Israeli company NSO.

Today, the Calcalist newspaper stated that it was common to use the Pegasus program to obtain information and that it was used without judicial authorization against Avner Netanyahu, one of the sons of the former prime ministerdirectors of the latter, journalists and mayors.

The police admitted last week to having used computer espionage technologies “without a mandate”. AFP Photo

Up to now, targets have been found all over the world: From India and Uganda to Mexico and the West Bank, with high-profile victims including US officials and a New York Times journalist.

The cases

Although there have been more than 450 suspected cases of hacking, this list, which was compiled with the help of the Amnesty Security Lab, includes only cases involving Amnesty or another digital forensics group such as Citizen Lab (which also helped build this list), local media reported Ha’aretz.

also includes some cases in which official bodies as the French intelligence agencies or private companies such as Apple or WhatsApp have publicly confirmed attacks.

The list does not include those suspected of being targeted, for example Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who was reportedly the spyware was sent to you via a WhatsApp message none other than Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

It was used without judicial authorization against Avner Netanyahu, one of the sons of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Reuters Photo

It was used without judicial authorization against Avner Netanyahu, one of the sons of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Reuters Photo

The NSO Group, which refuses to confirm the identity of its clients and claims it has no knowledge of their targets, denied most of these cases and says that digital forensics cannot fully identify your software.

According to the Calcalist newspaper “from ministerial cabinet directors to journalists and businessmen, the massive infection with Pegasus affected the whole world, from activists for the rights of disabled people and Ethiopianseven directors of large companies and relatives of the prime minister,” according to the newspaper.

“In light of these publications,” Israeli police commander Yaakov Shabtai said in a statement that he had asked Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev to the creation of an external and independent investigation to “restore public trust” and “regulate police use of technology.”

Last week, other Israeli media claimed that police were suspected of hacking the phone of a key witness in Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial.

The Prime Minister’s Trial

Netanyahu, prime minister from 2009 to 2021, faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trustaccusations that he denies.

His trial will take several more months and appeals could take years.

In a statement on Monday, Prime Minister Bennet promised that the government “will not leave unanswered” this issue. “What is alleged to have happened here is very serious,” says Bennet.

The Israeli prime minister considered, however, that the Pegasus program it is an “important instrument in the fight against terrorism” but that “it cannot be used as electronic espionage against the Israeli public or against those responsible” political or economic.

For that reason, he said, “we need to understand exactly what happened.”

Pegasus is a surveillance program which can turn on a phone’s camera or microphone to collect your information.

It sparked global controversy last year following revelations that it was used to spy on journalists and dissidents in countries including Mexico, Hungary, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

Several investigations in 2021 published by a consortium of 17 international media indicated that the NSO program had allowed to spy on phones of journalists, businessmen, and politicians, including heads of state, in several countries.

Source: EFE and AP

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