News Release

Global Rights Threat of Israeli Spying Firms

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052@gmail.com, @richards1052
Silverstein is an independent journalist and researcher writing about Israeli foreign policy and covert operations. He writes the Tikun Olam blog and contributes to Al Jazeera English, Middle East Eye, and Jacobin magazine.

He just wrote the piece “NSO Group Targets 50,000 Cell Phone Numbers in 50 Countries: Heads of State, Cabinet Ministers, Diplomats, Security Officials.” He also recently wrote the piece “Israeli Cyber-Mercenary Company, Candiru, Exposed as New Global Rights Threat.”

He said today: “Two major media exposes in the New York Times and Washington Post have shone a light on the damage done by Israeli cyber-hacking companies to human rights around the world. The Post story, published in collaboration with Amnesty International’s Pegasus Project, details a massive corporate spying campaign by the world’s largest such company, NSO Group, targeting 50,000 cell phones located in 50 countries. At its heart is the most sophisticated cyber-malware product on the world market, Pegasus.

“Among those targeted were heads of state, cabinet ministers, diplomats, and military-security officials. The articles indicate that the NSO client state Saudi Arabia had infected the phones of a close associate of murdered journalist, Jamal Khasoggi, his ex-wife, and his fiance. The electronic device of a Mexican journalist was hacked less than two weeks before his murder.

“As it faces a major lawsuit from Whatsapp, which was compromised by an exploit created by NSO, the company is mounting an aggressive defense including creating an ethics panel meant to whitewash the moral and ethical lapses for which the technology is responsible. Members of the panel included former Obama administration officials including Julie Kayyem and former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro. It has also hired a major D.C. lobbying firm and one of Washington’s leading libel lawyers in an effort to cajole or intimidate its critics into silence.

“These reports prove that this industry must be regulated by U.S. legislation and/or international treaty. Cyber-hacking on this scale is an incredibly lucrative business in which the more dangerous the technology, the more money is to be made. If restraints aren’t imposed, the damage could spread exponentially in coming years.”