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Israel to consider whether spyware export rules should be tightened | Israeli




An Israeli commission reviewing allegations that spyware NSO Groups Pegasus was misused by its clients to target journalists and human rights activists will consider whether Israel’s export rules for cyber weapons such as Pegasus should be tightened, said one old deputy.

The move came as French President Emmanuel Macron called an emergency cyber security meeting following reports that his mobile phone and government ministers appeared on the leaked list. An official at the Macrons Elysee Palace said the presidents had changed their phone and telephone numbers.

The NSO has said Macron was not a target of any of its clients, namely the company denies that he was selected for surveillance using its spyware, saying in numerous statements that it urges its government clients to use its powerful spying tools only for legitimate investigations into terrorism or crime.

Quick Guide

What is in the Pegasus project data?


What’s in the data stream?

The data leak is a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, since 2016, are believed to have been selected as those of interest by government customers of NSO Group, which sells surveillance software. The data also contains the time and date when the numbers were selected, or entered into a system. Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit journalism organization, and Amnesty International initially had access to the list and shared access with 16 media organizations including the Guardian. More than 80 journalists have worked together for several months as part of the Pegasus project. Amnestys Security Lab, a technical partner in the project, conducted the forensic analysis.

What does the leak indicate?

The consortium believes the data show the potential intentions of NGO government clients identified prior to potential oversight. While data is an indication of intent, the presence of a number in the data does not reveal whether there has been an attempt to infect the phone with spyware such as Pegasus, the firm’s surveillance tool, or whether any attempt has been successful. The presence in the data of a very small fixed number and American numbers, which NSO says are technically impossible to use with its tools, reveals that some targets were chosen by NSO clients even though they could not were infected with Pegasus. However, forensic examinations of a small sample of cell phones with listed numbers found close correlations between the time and date of a number in the data and the start of Pegasus activity in some cases, even a few seconds.

What did the forensic analysis reveal?

Amnesty examined 67 smartphones suspected of attacks. Of those, 23 were successfully infected and 14 showed signs of attempted penetration. For the remaining 30, the tests were incomplete, in some cases because the cell phones had been replaced. Fifteen of the phones were Android devices, none of which showed evidence of successful infection. However, unlike the iPhone, phones running Android do not record the types of information required for Amnestys detective work. Three Android phones showed signs of targeting, such as Pegasus-related SMS messages.

Amnesty shared backups of four iPhones with Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto that specializes in the Pegasus study, which confirmed that they showed signs of Pegasus infection. The Citizen Lab also conducted a peer review of Amnestys forensic methods and found them healthy.

Which OST clients were choosing the numbers?

While the data are organized into groups, indicative of individual OST clients, it is not stated which OST client was responsible for selecting a particular number. NSO claims to sell its tools to 60 customers in 40 countries, but refuses to identify them. By closely examining the pattern of targeting by individual clients in the leaked data, media partners were able to identify 10 governments believed to be responsible for target selection: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia , Hungary, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Citizen Lab also found evidence that all 10 were OST clients.

What does NSO Group say?

You can read the full TSO Group Statement here. The company has always said it does not have access to its customer target data. Through its attorneys, the NSO said the consortium had made inaccurate assumptions about clients using enterprise technology. She said the 50,000 number was exaggerated and that the list could not be a list of numbers targeted by governments using Pegasus. Advocates said the NSO had reason to believe that the list accessed by the consortium is not a list of numbers targeted by governments using Pegasus, but could instead be part of a larger list of numbers that could have been used. by NSO Group customers for other purposes. They said it was a list of numbers anyone could look for in an open source system. After further questioning, the lawyers said the consortium was basing its findings on misleading interpretation of data derived from accessible and open source information, such as HLR Lookup services, which have no impact on clients’ list of targets. of Pegasus or any other NGO products … we still do not see any correlation of these lists with anything related to the use of NSO Group technologies. After the publication, they explained that they considered a “target” of a phone that was the subject of a successful or attempted (but failed) infection by Pegasus, and reiterated that the list of 50,000 phones was too large to represent. ” They said the fact that a number appeared on the list was in no way indicative of whether it had been selected for surveillance using Pegasus.

What is HLR search data?

The term HLR, or home location registry, refers to a database that is essential to the operation of cellular networks. Such records keep records of telephone users’ networks and their general locations, along with other identifying information routinely used in directing calls and texting. Telecoms and surveillance experts say HLR data can sometimes be used in the early stages of a surveillance attempt, when it is identified whether it is possible to connect to a telephone. The consortium understands that NSO customers have the ability through an interface on the Pegasus system to conduct HLR search queries. It is unclear whether Pegasus operators are required to conduct HRL search through its interface to use its software; an NSO source pointed out that its customers may have various non-Pegasus-related reasons for conducting HLR searches through an NSO system.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice to the escalating controversy Thursday, telling reporters in Berlin that spyware such as the NSO should be denied to countries where there was no judicial oversight, as it turned out that the 14 heads of state were in list.

Asked if he regretted that the technology sold by the NSO Group had helped undermine freedom of expression in countries ruled by autocratic regimes, Merkel said: “I believe it is important that software developed for certain situations does not fall into the hands of wrong. There should be restrictive conditions and such software should not be sold in countries where judicial oversight of such attacks cannot be guaranteed.

The growing consequences of the Pegasus project revelations, a collaboration of 17 media organizations including the Guardian, which began Sunday with a series of allegations about software misuse, has continued to echo.

In Israel, the prospect of tighter controls on spyware exports like Pegasus was raised by Ram Ben-Barak, head of the foreign affairs and defense committees of parliaments and a former deputy head of the Mossad spy agency on Army Radio as he revealed that Israels establishment of defense [has] appointed a review committee composed of a number of groups.

Of course we need to look again at this whole topic of licenses granted by DECA [Israels Defence Exports Control Agency], he said. When they complete their review, ask well to see the results and evaluate if we need to make corrections.

DECA is within the Israeli Ministry of Defense and oversees OST exports. The ministry and the company have said that Pegasus is meant to be used to prosecute only terrorists and criminals and that all foreign customers are government verified.

At the heart of the project is a leaked database of about 50,000 cell phone numbers. The Guardian and other media partners who had access to the data believe the list shows people of interest selected by government NGO clients. It includes several people whose phones showed traces of NSO Pegasus spy, according to forensic analysis of their equipment.

The appearance of a number in the leaked list, however, does not mean that he was the subject of an attempted or successful attack.

The NSO says the database is of no importance to the company and has dismissed reporting from the Pegasus project as full of erroneous assumptions and incorrect theories. He denied that the leaked database represented those intended for surveillance by the Pegasus software.

The alleged misuse has sparked questions within Naftali Bennetts’s cross-party coalition, one of whose members, the liberal Meretz party, asked Defense Secretary Benny Gantz about NSO exports at a meeting Thursday.

Gantz stressed the importance of upholding human rights within the framework of arms sales, a joint statement said.




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