Without an order and not just against suspects: the police broke into the phones of Israelis with the help of NSO Pegasus

by time news

New investigation reveals that police do not need a court order at all to gain access to the devices of social activists, mayors or citizens with the help of the powerful NSO tool

Source: Image Processing

The Israeli NSO Group is making headlines again, but this time it is no longer about journalists or opponents of the regime in countries whose ties to democracy are tenuous, which has put it on the US blacklist or arranged a lawsuit against it from Apple. A new report reveals that the Israeli police allegedly used NSO’s sophisticated surveillance tool on Israeli citizens.

Use Pegasus against the black flags, mayors and more

A new Calcalist investigation reveals that in 2020 – when protests against former Prime Minister Netanyahu were at their peak led by “black flags” – the Israeli police decided to use the NSO pegasus to break into the devices of some of the protest leaders, and gain full access to them.

It was further revealed that the use of the tool, which requires the approval of high-ranking police officers but not the approval of a court order to operate, was also used by the police to pry into the device of an incumbent mayor suspected of bribery. Police even found such evidence, which was eventually recorded as “intelligence information,” and also led to the opening of an open investigation that allowed police to gain access to that mayor’s device even through a court order.

But it did not stop there. According to journalist Tomer Ganun’s investigation, police used the tool to break into the device of another incumbent mayor in search of information on a take-give relationship with a particular contractor – information that was indeed discovered but did not lead to an investigation against that mayor; In addition, the police allegedly broke into the devices of employees of a government company on suspicion of fraudulent offenses, and they even tried to use it to carry out a phishing attack against an associate of a senior politician in an attempt to extract evidence related to a corruption case.

But the highlight is the fact that the police have not just hacked into the devices of officials with a specific suspicion in an attempt to advance investigations. The investigation shows that the police also used Pegasus to break into the devices of Israeli citizens in order to collect information that is not necessarily related to a particular investigation or suspicion – but only so that later they can use the information they collected to put pressure on detainees. All this, as stated, without a court order – and at the discretion of senior police officers only.

It is important to note that alongside all these problematic uses, to say the least, of the NSO’s powerful surveillance tool, the police also used Pegasus to crack investigations into serious cases – in which corruption and murder cases were investigated.

The investigation reveals a picture of a push for the use of the tool, which became operational under the former commissioner RNZ (retired) Roni Alsheikh, among other things to shorten investigative processes – also at the expense of the rights of Israeli citizens. And all this, under the cyber-signet division of the police, whose activities are often shrouded in great fog.

This is how Pegasus, the sophisticated surveillance tool of the Israeli NSO, works

“Do not act against Israeli numbers”? Probably so

The new exposure about the use of Pegasus in Israel is also interesting because it contradicts a significant claim by NSO, which arose mainly with the exposure of the “Pegasus Project” in which extensive use of the tool was revealed – including against French President Emanuel Macron.

Upon the unveiling of the project, senior NSO officials, including CEO and founder Shalev Julio and company president Tami Mazal, argued that Pegasus should not act against Israeli numbers (with area code 972) or American numbers (with area code 1) – but the investigation does not appear to be a problem. Activate the tool against Israeli numbers. This NSO claim was also used in another scandal recently uncovered around it, when it was discovered that Pegasus had been used as a third party to track American diplomats – but in devices with a Ugandan prefix and not an American prefix.

NSO “does not address existing or potential customers”, police say the investigation is sinful to the truth

NSO said in response to the investigation that “as a rule, we do not refer to existing or potential customers. We would like to clarify that the company does not operate the systems in its customers’ possession and is not involved in their operation. The Company’s employees are not exposed to the purposes, nor are they exposed to information about them, are not involved and are not exposed to the operational activities of our customers and not to any information related to the investigations conducted by the customer. The company sells its products under a license and supervision for the use of security bodies and state law enforcement authorities to prevent crime and terrorism legally and according to court orders and local law in each country. “

The police said that the allegations in the Calcalist investigation are sinful and added that the Israel Police is acting in accordance with the powers conferred on it by law and as required by court orders, within the framework of procedures and rules established by the competent authorities. Police activity in this area is under continuous supervision and control, by the Attorney General and other non-organizational legal entities. Naturally, the police do not intend to refer to the tools they use. At the same time, we will continue to act resolutely with all the means at our disposal, in the physical and network space, in order to fight crime in general and organized crime in particular in order to protect the security and property of the public. “

Oshri Alexelsi

Your Friendly Neighborhood Geek. Do you have a technological story? Talk to me: [email protected]

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