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Lawmaker Ram Ben Barak says the “defense institute” will investigate the Israeli company behind the controversy.
Israel has set up a committee to review allegations that the NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus phone surveillance software has been misused amid a hacking scandal that rolled up governments worldwide.
Thursday’s announcement by the head of the Israeli Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee came in the wake of revelations that the Israeli company’s spyware appears to have been used by governments to monitor heads of state, opposition figures, activists and journalists, whose names were among about 50,000 potential targets on a list leaked to rights group Amnesty International and Paris-based Forbidden Stories.
The revelations sparked calls for accountability and greater control over international sales of spyware technology. Pegasus can hack into mobile phones without a user’s knowledge, allowing customers to read every message, track a user’s location, and use the phone’s camera and microphone.
Israeli lawmaker Ram Ben Barak, former deputy head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, told Army Radio: “The defense institute has appointed an assessment committee composed of a number of groups” to investigate the allegations.
“Once they are done with their assessment, we will demand to see the results and assess whether we need to make corrections,” he said.
NSO, for its part, has said that the leak is “not a list of targets or potential targets of Pegasus”.
On Thursday, Army Radio CEO Shalev Hulio told Army Radio that he would be “delighted if there were an investigation so we could clear our name,” while claiming the allegations were part of a larger effort “to all the Israeli cyber industry”.
‘Digging from top to bottom’
NSO has said it is exporting to 45 countries with the approval of the Israeli government.
Hulio said the company could not disclose the details of its contracts due to “issues of confidentiality”, but said it would provide full transparency to any government that wishes more details.
“Let every state entity come — every official from every state — and I will be willing to open everything up for them, for them to come in, to dig from top to bottom,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ben Barak said Israel’s priority was to “review this whole licensing issue.”
He credited Pegasus for uncovering many “terror cells” but added, “If it was misused or sold to irresponsible bodies, we need to check.”
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders called on Wednesday for a moratorium on cybersurveillance software.
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