Israeli tech company NSO Group, which has drawn global attention, including in India, amid allegations of misuse of its controversial Pegasus spyware, apparently has a large presence in the European Union with at least 22 contracts covering 12 of all 27 member states, according to a media report. he said Wednesday. Pegasus spyware and competitor products allow the cell phone of the surveillance victim to be infected and then allow the operator to listen to conversations, read applications with encrypted messages and provide full access to contacts and files on the device.
Pegasus spy software allows real-time spying on what is happening around the cell phone by operating the camera and microphone.
Representatives of the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Pegasus spyware recently visited Israel and learned from NSO staff that the company has active contracts with 12 members of the European Union, the Ha’aretz daily reported.
The Israeli cyber warfare company’s responses to questions from the committee, which were obtained by the newspaper, reveal that the company is now working 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 Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry who came to Israel are said to have been shocked to discover contracts with their home countries.
Committee representatives have visited Israel in recent weeks “to learn in depth about the local cyber warfare industry” and held talks with NSO employees, representatives of the Israeli Defense Ministry and local experts.
Committee members included a Catalan lawmaker whose cell phone was hacked by an NSO client, the report noted.
“The committee was established after the publication of Project Pegasus last year, and its goal is to create pan-European regulations for the acquisition, import and use of cyber warfare software such as Pegasus,” the report says.
“But while the committee members were in Israel, and particularly since their return to Brussels, it has been revealed that Europe also has a well-developed cyber warfare industry, and many of its clients are European countries,” he said.
EU lawmakers took it upon themselves to find out the identity of NSO’s customers in Europe today 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 are still using Pegasus for legal interception of mobile calls, according to NSO’s response to the committee’s questions.
In response to questions from lawmakers, the company explained that NSO currently works with 22 “end users” – security and intelligence organizations and law enforcement authorities – in 12 European countries.
In some of the countries there is more than one client, as they are operating organizations, according to the report.
In the past, according to the NSO presentation, the company worked with two additional countries with which ties have now been severed. NSO did not disclose which countries are active customers and with which two countries the contract was frozen, he said.
NSO reportedly did not respond to Haaretz’s request for comment.
Israel, in early 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. world, saying that it is a private company and has nothing to do with the policies of the Israeli government.
“NSO is a private company, it is not a government project, and therefore, even if it is designated, it has nothing to do with the policies of the Israeli government,” Israel’s then-foreign minister told a news conference. and now Prime Minister, Yair Lapid. conference days after the company was blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce.
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