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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Pegasus snooping scandal: Israel’s NSO blocks some government clients from using spyware, claims report

The company has not specified which governments are included in the ban, nor has it laid down how long the suspension will last.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 30, 2021 2:51:16 pm
“There is an investigation into some clients. Some of those clients have been temporarily suspended,” a company employee told NPR. (Representational image)

Amid furor over the Pegasus snooping scandal that has taken the world by storm, Israeli spyware company NSO Group has allegedly temporarily blocked several of its government clients from using its technology, according to a media report. The temporary ban comes as the company investigates claims that its Pegasus spyware was used to hack the phones of politicians and journalists.

The company has not specified which government agencies are included in the ban, nor has it laid down how long the suspension will last, America’s National Public Radio (NPR) reported. “There is an investigation into some clients. Some of those clients have been temporarily suspended,” a company employee told NPR.

The allegations were first levelled against the Israeli spyware company earlier this month by the Pegasus Project, a global consortium of 17 media organisations, which reported a leaked list of over 50,000 phone numbers in more than 45 countries that were potentially targeted for surveillance.

The move comes just a day after Israeli authorities visited the NSO’s office in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv to investigate the claims. The NSO employee told NPR that the company was fully cooperating with the authorities to carry out the investigation.

The employee refused to name the government agencies that NSO has temporarily banned as the company’s policy prohibits it from identifying its clients.

NSO has a total of 60 customers across 40 countries, all of which are intelligence agencies, law enforcement bodies and militaries. In recent years, before the Pegasus snooping controversy, the company said it blocked its software from five governmental agencies. Saudi Arabia, Dubai and some Mexican public agencies were among the clients suspended, the Washington Post reported.

In India, the names of 125 potential targets out of 300-odd verified ones from over 2,000 Indian numbers found on the leaked list have been made public. Meanwhile, the government has denied any “unauthorised interception” and described the Pegasus Project as a “fishing expedition, based on conjectures and exaggerations to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions”.

The Monsoon Session of Parliament has witnessed a week-long impasse between the Centre and the Opposition, which is demanding a discussion on the snooping scandal.

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