Israeli defence ministry studying investigation into NSO Group

New Delhi: The Israeli Defence Ministry is studying the investigation into NSO Group, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday after it was revealed that the Israeli cyber company has been selling spyware to foreign governments to target journalists and activists, Jerusalem Post reported.

“We are aware of recent publications regarding the use of systems developed by certain Israeli cyber companies,” Gantz said on Tuesday at Cyber Week at Tel Aviv University, without naming the Herzliya-based company.

On Sunday, the Pegasus Project revealed that the spyware sold by NSO (Pegasus) had been identified on the phones of individuals targeted by the governments of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India, the United Arab Emirates and more.

The investigation was carried out by 17 media organisations, led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories, and sponsored by Amnesty International. At the centre of it was a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers belonging to journalists, senior politicians and business people.

The report said Gantz asserted that as a matter of policy, Israel authorises the export of cyber products “solely to governments, only for lawful use and exclusively for the purposes of preventing and investigating crime and terrorism” and that the country controls the exports of such products and complies with international export control regimes.

“The countries acquiring these systems must abide by their commitments to these requirements. We are currently studying the information that is published on the subject,” Gantz said.

In a statement released after the investigation was published, the Defence Ministry said that it will take “appropriate action” if NSO Group violated the terms of its export licenses or end use certificates, the report added.