NSO Pegasus spyware used by at least five countries in the European Union

The company acknowledges the use of NSO Pegasus spyware by at least five countries in the European Union. It has been acknowledged as part of a European investigation into the influence of Pegasus, with an interim report now published.

The real number is likely to be higher, with the company promising to provide a “more specific number”…

What you need to know about NSO Pegasus spyware

NSO Group manufactures spyware called Pegasus, which is sold to the government and law enforcement agencies. The company buys so-called zero-day vulnerabilities (vulnerabilities unknown to Apple) from hackers, and its software is capable of mounting zero-pressure exploits – where the target does not require user intervention.

In particular, simply receiving an iMessage – without opening it or interacting with it in any way – can compromise an iPhone, exposing personal data.

Prime Ministers, US State Department officials, top EU officials, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists are among those whose iPhones have been hacked by Pegasus.

The US government banned the import and use of Pegasus, depriving the company of its most lucrative customer base: US law enforcement agencies. And Apple added to the pressure, filing a lawsuit against the company, alerting owners of infected iPhones.

NSO claims to exercise caution in approving clients, but few believe it, and the company’s CEO wanted to tear up even the alleged rules under which it operates.

Used by at least five EU countries

Politico Reports on the latest admission.

Israeli spyware firm NSO Group on Tuesday told European lawmakers that at least five countries in the European Union had used its software and that the company had terminated at least one contract with an EU member state after misusing Pegasus surveillance software.

Speaking to the European Parliament committee looking into the use of spyware in Europe, NSO Group General Counsel Chaim Gelfand said the company had “made mistakes”, but it also had lost a huge amount of revenue, canceling contracts since the misuse reached mild […]

Gelfand said at least five EU countries have used the NSO tool, adding that he would return to MEPs with a “more specific number”.

NSO claims it wants to agree to an international standard on government use of spyware.

One-year investigation into Pegasus

It’s been three months since a European investigation into Pegasus, expected to take a year. An interim report has been published, explaining how spyware works, and outlining key concerns.

Pegasus is only provided to governments, but there are concerns that governments are misusing the software to spy on their political opponents. It recently emerged that the Belgian European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, was a target of the programme.

In addition to the investigation by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament is also investigating the Pegasus case. Parliamentarian Peter Omtzegt made the first results of the investigation under his leadership public, so that citizens and politicians could view them. Omtzigt doesn’t have much power to force governments to answer, but that’s not a problem, he said. “Just exposing what happened, and getting the facts right, is of great value to public and political debate in Europe.” (Source: rtlnieuws.nl).

The report provides a technical description of the Pegasus spyware and analyzes the impact it may have on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the right to privacy and freedom of expression. Moreover, the report emphasizes the frightening impact of the Pegasus spyware on human rights and other fundamental freedoms, including the right to dignity, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and even the physical and psychological integrity of the individual.

9to5Mac take on the NSO Pegasus spyware

NSO has zero credibility. It doesn’t matter much what the company does or doesn’t admit: You’ve frankly dodged and lied enough times that nothing you say can be believed.

Governments, too, cannot be trusted to be honest about the covert surveillance methods they use. Smart money will be on Pegasus after it has been used by pretty much every country on the planet.

So while the interim report is a useful document to help politicians understand how bad the NSO Pegasus spyware is, the only way anything will change is if spyware is banned internationally, and the company is out of business.

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