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pegasus: Post Pegasus scandal, Israel tightens supervision of cyber tech exports – Times of India


JERUSALEM: Israel’s defence ministry on Monday announced that it was tightening supervision over cyber exports – a move that follows a series of scandals involving Israeli spyware company NSO Group. The ministry said the countries purchasing Israeli cyber technology would have to sign a declaration pledging to use the products “for the investigation and prevention of terrorist acts and serious crimes only”. It said countries that violate the terms of use could be subject to sanctions, “including limiting the cyber system and/or disconnecting it”.
The updated certificate would list in detail what qualifies as “terrorist acts” – like attacks on people, public facilities, seizures of aircraft, the release of dangerous substances – as well as “serious crimes” referring to those that warrant imprisonment of six years or more. It would also spell out uses that are prohibited – like targeting people for political affiliation or applications that break that country’s privacy laws – for which Israel could revoke licences and the systems be shut down.
The announcement made no mention of NSO. But it came just days after it was revealed that 11 US state department employees were hacked with NSO spyware. The employees were all located in Uganda. It was the first known instance of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware being used against US officials. Last month, the US commerce department blacklisted NSO. Apple sued NSO last week over its hacking of iPhones and other Apple products. Facebook has filed a lawsuit over similar claim that it intruded WhatsApp.
Pegasus allows its operator to gain access to a target’s mobile phone, including contacts, text messages and real-time communications. NSO says it sells its tech to governments only to battle crime and terrorism. However, human rights groups and outside researchers have said the company’s safeguards are insufficient. They say customers have abused Pegasus to keep tabs on journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents from Mexico to Saudi Arabia. NSO declined to comment on the guidelines.

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