NSO Group washes its hands of the scandal in Spain and defends that it only offers Pegasus to follow “terrorists”

The scandal caused by pegasus case knows no borders. Its possible implications, either. Several days after this crisis with unpredictable consequences broke out in Spain, the Israeli company that manufactures this software, NSO Groupassures that he knows nothing about this subject and alleges that, according to some protocols that he has not wanted to reveal either, the “improper” uses that his clients – the intelligence services of several countries, including Spain – make of his controversial espionage tool.

Spokespersons for this company have indicated to Public that “NSO’s strong position on these issues is that the use of cyber tools for the purpose of surveillance of politicians, dissidents, activists and journalists is a serious misuse of any technology and goes against the intended use of such critical tools.

“We have made a commitment that we will investigate any suspected misuse, and we will cooperate and assist with any government investigation into these matters,” the company said. Public about whether he will carry out any type of investigation regarding the espionage of the mobile phones of the President of the Government, Pedro Sanchezand the Minister of Defense, Margaret Oaksas well as against high representatives of the Catalan government and pro-independence politicians.

In any case, the spokespersons assured that they were unaware of these specific cases and affirmed that they were not “familiar” with their “details”. “NSO is a provider of softwarethe company does not operate the technology nor is it aware of the data collected,” they stated.

In the same way, they stressed that the company “does not know and cannot know who the recipients of its clients are, but it applies measures to guarantee that these systems are used only for authorized uses.”

After receiving that first response from NSO Group, Public went back to the Communication area of ​​said company to ask it to clarify what are the specific actions that are carried out in the face of “improper use” and, specifically, what measures it intends to adopt in the face of pegasus case in Spain.

Approximately 48 hours later, the company responded to this newspaper with a cut and paste of its previous message, thus avoiding any specific explanation about the scandal that the institutions of this country are going through today.

“Criminals and Terrorists”

This is not the first time that NSO Group has resorted to generalities to divert focus from the true scope of its business with Pegasus. In a “transparency and accountability” document published in June 2021, the company focused almost exclusively on that software of espionage and its modes of action against its illegal use.

“Its use against law-abiding citizens is prohibited, and clients, most of whom are in the EU or in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development)are committed to using our products responsibly,” he said.

Among other points, it denied that it was a “mass surveillance” tool, while assuring that only data from “criminal suspects” and “terrorists” that have been previously identified.

He explains that “in many ways” this tool “is similar in concept to a traditional wiretap”, only that “instead of listening to specific conversations, it helps security forces to monitor mobile messaging”, allowing open surveillance ” the activities of previously identified and individually selected criminal actors”.

Its creators then assured that they only granted licenses “to the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of sovereign states”, after which they warned that their clients “do not want and should not share this extraordinarily sensitive information.”

“We strictly require that Pegasus be used only when there is a legitimate law enforcement or intelligence reason related to a specific, pre-identified phone number, and after following a process in which a government agency independent of the user – such as a court – authorize that use in accordance with a written national law,” it states in another section.

“We investigate it”

What happens when an incorrect use of said tool is known? What does NSO Group do when it spies on, for example, the presidents of democratic governments or pro-independence politicians?

According to this company’s report, in 2021 they precisely improved their protocols to “discover possible misuse and carry out investigations”. “When a customer is accused of misusing our technology, we investigate it immediately,” he states categorically in another section of the document.

In that report, the company implied that investigations into misuse of Pegasus had already taken place by then. “When customers have been unable to provide sufficient guarantees to remain authorized users of our products, we have terminated the relationship with them,” he noted.

It further noted that in the three years prior to the release of that report, “allegations of abuse accounted for less than 0.5% of the cases in which the Pegasus system was used by our customers.” “However, we are well aware of the inherent human rights stress associated with our products,” the company added.

Banned Countries

Along these lines, the company points out that it has a list of 55 countries – it does not specify which ones – to which it has decided not to sell this tool for reasons such as “human rights, corruption and regulatory restrictions.” “Opportunities from those countries won’t even be presented to the management committee for consideration,” he says.

NSO Group further ensures that it conducts “extensive due diligence on potential clients”, to the point that “from May 2020 to April 2021, approximately 15% of new potential opportunities for Pegasus were rejected due to problems. of human rights that could not be resolved”.

On the other hand, he argued that the Export Control Agency of the Israeli Ministry of Defense “strictly restricts the granting of licenses to Pegasus”, because that government body carries out “its own analysis of potential clients from a human rights perspective”.

“While we have sought to create a strong internal framework to prevent misuse, we are also subject to an ‘in-depth’ regulatory review of the regulations. In addition, DECA has denied our export license applications in quite a few cases,” NSO added. Group in the document.


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