Pegasus Scandal: NSO Threatens to Sue Israeli Newspaper

NSO says financial daily Calcalist did not provide evidence in its latest report on the Pegasus spyware

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, in southern Israel, in August.
A logo adorns a wall on a branch of the Israeli NSO Group company, in southern Israel, in August.Credit: Sebastian Scheiner /AP
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

NSO Group sent a warning letter on Thursday to the Israeli financial daily Calcalist over the daily's latest report into the use of the company's Pegasus spyware.

On Thursday, the publication reported that NSO covers its tracks and block documentation of actions taken with the spyware. By doing so, the report said, it's impossible to thoroughly investigate the use of the program and its list of targets.

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

In a letter from lawyers Moshe Mazor and Roy Blecher, who are representing NSO, the company denied that it allows its customers to erase the data they collected with its spyware, and said the reports do not include "any evidence to support the presented sensational claims."

NSO, which has previously chosen not to respond to the reports about it, wrote in its letter to Calcalist that every version of its spyware system "includes full documentation of all the actions carried out with it," and that the data logs were designed from the outset to save documents for legal purposes and to block the possibility of tampering with evidence.

It also denied that it offered customers versions of the system that do not record its actions, or offer "weak" documentation.

In the letter, the company said it does not intend to comment on "previous Calcalist reports on the matter, into which government authorities are conducting an investigation." Thursday's report, like previous reports, "does not present any evidence to support its sensational claims," but unlike the others, this one refers to actions taken by NSO, "and is based on completely false claims" that seriously harm the company, the letter said.

Last Monday, Calcalist reported that the Israel Police used NSO's Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of public figures, including protest leaders, a journalist, government employees and associates of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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.

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