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Pegasus used by at least 5 EU countries, NSO Group tells lawmakers

The Israeli spyware firm NSO Group on Tuesday told European lawmakers at least five EU countries have used its software and the firm has terminated at least one contract with an EU member country following abuse of its Pegasus surveillance software.

Speaking to the European Parliament’s committee looking into the use of spyware in Europe, NSO Group’s General Counsel Chaim Gelfand said the company had “made mistakes,” but that it had also passed up a huge amount of revenue, canceling contracts since misuse had come to light.

“We’re trying to do the right thing and that’s more than other companies working in the industry,” Gelfand told members of the PEGA committee. “Every customer we sell to, we do due diligence on in advance in order to assess the rule of law in that country. But working on publicly available information is never going to be enough.”

At least five EU countries had used NSO’s tool, Gelfand said, adding he would come back to MEPs with a “more concrete number.” 

EU lawmakers launched the inquiry after revelations that the spyware is widespread in Europe and has been used against some of the bloc’s most prominent leaders, including Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and political groups in Spain, Poland and Hungary.

In Spain, the scandal has led to a government investigation of the conduct of its intelligence agency CNI, which Catalan political groups accuse of having spied on leaders of the region’s independence movement.

Carles Puigdemont, a member of the inquiry committee and a Catalan politician who was targeted with Pegasus spyware, said he supported a complete ban of Pegasus, citing a recent U.S. trade ban on the firm, since the group acknowledged that they cannot control its use.

The hearing served as a climax of the work lawmakers have done since March to probe and curtail the use of the intrusive spyware. It was a tense session that at times threatened to boil over into open hostilities, as Gelfand batted away probing questions.

To fight off the fierce criticism, NSO Group stressed it was eager to see the creation of an international body on spyware regulation, “something similar to a non-proliferation agreement,” where only countries that agree to the established rules will be able to use the technology, Gelfand said.

“There’s a lot to be done, that’s why we’re calling for an international standard,” he added.

Vincent Manancourt contributed reporting.

https://ift.tt/4NRs2gQ June 22, 2022 at 12:17AM
Antoaneta Roussi

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