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Israel firm NSO says Macron not targeted by Pegasus spyware


HERZLIYA: Israeli cybersecurity company official NSO Group said Wednesday that the controversial Pegasus spyware the tool was not used to target the French president Emmanuel macron.
The comments came as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged Israel to suspend exports of spy technology after heads of state, including Macron, and dozens of journalists and rights activists appeared on a list of allegedly targeted targets. for possible surveillance.
We can “go out specifically and say with certainty that the president of France, Macron, was not a target,” Chaim Gelfand, chief compliance officer for NSO Group, he told the i24 News television network.
But he also alluded to “some cases raised that we are not so comfortable with”, noting that in such circumstances the company “generally approaches the client and has a long discussion … to try to understand what their legitimate reasons were if there are some, to use the system “.
Gelfand’s comments aired on the same day that the director of RSF Christophe deloire called on Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to “impose an immediate moratorium on exports of surveillance technology, until a protective regulatory framework is established.”
The Deloire call came after a list of some 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been chosen by NSO Group customers was leaked. The numbers allegedly included those of Macron and 13 other heads of state.
Pegasus can hack mobile phones without the user knowing, allowing customers to read all messages, track a user’s location, and access the phone’s camera and microphone.
NSO has contracts with 45 countries and says Israel’s Defense Ministry must approve their deals. The company does not identify its customers.
However, the rights group International Amnesty and the Paris-based organization Forbidden stories who obtained the list, said NSO’s government clients include Bahrain, India, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.
Reports from news outlets such as The Guardian, Le Monde and The Washington Post found that nearly 200 journalists from organizations, including AFP, were on the list.
“Allowing governments to install spyware that is used in practice to monitor hundreds of journalists and their sources around the world poses a major democratic problem,” Deloire said.
Spokesmen for Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz did not respond to questions from AFP on Wednesday.
NSO, an Israeli tech giant, is headquartered in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, and has 850 employees.
Its chief executive, Shalev Hulio, 39, denied in an interview with Israel’s 103FM radio on Tuesday that his company was involved in mass surveillance.
He said NSO “had no connection” to the list of thousands of phone numbers.
On Wednesday, Bennett touted Israeli tech prowess at a cyber conference in Tel Aviv.
“Of every $ 100 invested in cyber defense worldwide, $ 41 was invested in Israeli cyber defense firms,” ​​he said.
“We as a government, as a nation, have to defend ourselves,” Bennett added.
He suggested that global interest in Israeli technology remained strong, saying that “dozens of countries” signed memoranda to obtain Israeli tools to defend against cyberattacks.
An additional statement Wednesday from NSO claimed that the company was the victim of a “vicious and defamatory campaign,” and that it would no longer respond to media inquiries.
“Any claim that a name on the list is necessarily related to a Pegasus target or a potential Pegasus target is wrong and false,” he said.
“NSO is a technology company. We do not operate the system, nor do we have access to our clients’ data, but they are obliged to provide us with such information in investigations,” the company added.
On Tuesday, Gantz said Israel approves the export of technology only to governments “exclusively for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime and terrorism.”
He said Israel is “studying” recent publications on the subject.

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