Israel Police Used NSO's Pegasus Spyware Against Top Gov't Officials, Journalists and Activists

According to Calcalist, Israeli police also used NSO's Pegasus to spy on businesspeople, Netanyahu's son and advisers - all without a court order ■ 'This is an earthquake,' says top minister

A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, August 24, 2021.
A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, near the southern Israeli town of Sapir, August 24, 2021. Credit: Sebastian Scheiner / AP

Israel Police used NSO's Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of public figures, including protest leaders, journalists, government employees and associates of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a report by Calcalist on Monday.

According to the report, the hacking tool was used without a court order and against Netanyahu's son, Avner Netanyahu, co-defendant in his criminal trial Iris Elovitch, leaders of disability rights protests, journalists at Walla news website, businessman Rami Levy, mayors and senior officials in the Finance Ministry.

Netanyahu's media advisers, Topaz Luk and Yonatan Urich have also been targeted, alongside Head of Workers' Union Yair Katz.

The phones of former Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad, former Justice Ministry Director General Emi Palmor and former Transportation Ministry Director General Karen Terner were also reportedly hacked.

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Israel's Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev decided to form a government commission of inquiry to investigate the matter, amid widespread condemnation from lawmakers. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed also vowed to investigate the scandal.

In January, Calcalist's Tomer Ganon published a series of articles detailing how Israel's Police used the infamous spyware against Israeli citizens for years without a warrant or court order.

After the report, Israel Police admitted misuse of the spyware. Sources in law enforcement said that the misuse occurred during the tenure of former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.

The Pegasus spyware allows its operators to remotely access mobile phones infected with the software.

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Sold to intelligence and law enforcement agencies across the world, the spyware exploits security vulnerabilities in Android and iPhone operating systems to gain access to the device's contents – from messages to photos. The program also enables to remotely activate the phone’s camera and microphone, without the victim's knowledge.

Netael Bandel contributed to this report.

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