Pegasus Scandal: NSO Says Israeli Police Was Sold ‘Weaker’ Variant of Phone Hacking Tool Than Export Version

The chief of Israeli spyware and adware agency NSO Group mentioned on Tuesday it had offered the nation’s police a variant of the Pegasus hacking instrument that may entry native cellphones, however which he described as being “weaker” than the export model.

Unsourced media experiences final month of warrantless wiretaps by Israeli police utilizing Pegasus added a home dimension to long-running allegations that the instrument was abused by international governments towards reporters, rights activists and politicians.

The police have denied any wrongdoing. An inquiry appointed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which consulted NSO’s logs of consumer surveillance targets, discovered the experiences to be with out benefit.

Shalev Hulio, co-founder and chief govt of NSO, informed Tel Aviv radio station 103 FM that Israeli police had purchased “not Pegasus, but a system called ‘Saifan’ – in essence, a weakened version of Pegasus … with lesser capabilities, fewer means of operating”.

He didn’t elaborate.

Israeli media have reported that the hacking instrument utilized by police is designed to permit real-time eavesdropping, whereas Pegasus additionally supplies entry to previous correspondence saved on cellphones. Reuters couldn’t independently affirm this.

Hulio mentioned NSO had shared with the federal government inquiry its “audit trail log” of Israelis focused by police utilizing the corporate’s spyware and adware. That implicitly acknowledged that “Saifan” might hack Israeli cellphones — one thing NSO has lengthy asserted can’t be carried out with Pegasus.

“Pegasus has a protective mechanism that prevents it being used against Israeli numbers,” Hulio mentioned. “Every package ever sold to a client abroad cannot in any way be used against Israeli numbers. That’s how Pegasus is built.”

NSO says all its gross sales are authorized by Israel’s authorities and are meant to forestall terrorism and crime.

“Saifan” is Hebrew for the gladiolus flower, the avocet chicken or the inexperienced swordtail fish.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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