NSO’s Pegasus Spyware No Longer Effective in UK

Pegasus, the spyware tool developed by Israeli company NSO Group and believed to have been used in hacking campaigns around the world, can no longer be used against mobile phones with UK numbers.

That’s what a source close to the Israeli company told the guard that NSO blocked the +44 code in August 2020, immediately after learning that its spyware had been used by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to access the phones of his ex-wife Princess Haya bint al-Hussein and her lawyers to hack.

“We are completely locked down, hard coded in the system [Pegasus], to all our customers. We released a quick update in the middle of the night that none of our customers can work on UK tracks,” the source said.

the guardThe report came after Britain’s highest court ruled last week that the ruler of Dubai had used Pegasus to spy on his ex-wife during a legal battle over custody of their two children.

Princess Haya, the daughter of the King of Jordan, fled to London in 2019.

In his verdict, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family branch of the UK Supreme Court, said: “The findings represent a total abuse of trust, and indeed an abuse of power, to a significant degree.

“I want to make it clear that I consider the findings I have now made with the utmost seriousness in the context of the childrenthe wellbeing.”

Sheikh Mohammed’s agents hacked Haya’s phone 11 times in July and August last year, with “express or implied authority”.

In addition to the UK, the guardThe source said Pegasus can no longer be used to target mobile numbers from the United States, Israel and “all Five Eyes” countries. Members of the Five Eyes alliance include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

The revelation suggests that the spyware tool could still be used to attack phones in other NATO countries in Europe.

The NSO group has long been accused of selling its surveillance tools to repressive governments and leaders, who then use them to attack activists and opponents.

In July, the Paris-based nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International said Pegasus may have been used to spy on more than 1,000 journalists, human rights activists and other prominent individuals from about 50 countries.

The allegations were based on a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers believed to be among potential targets of interest to NSO’s customers.

It was unclear where the list came from or exactly how many devices had been compromised, though forensic analysis of 37 phones whose numbers were listed showed evidence of “attempted and successful” hacks.

Most of the phone numbers in the list were from Mexico, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Morocco, and Rwanda. The database contained the numbers of activists, journalists, businessmen, politicians, heads of state, members of the Qatari royal family and 180 journalists, including from the New York Times, the FT, l and Al Jazeera.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone number was one of the numbers on the list.

The French government urged Israel to launch an investigation into the use of the surveillance software after Israeli authorities inspected the offices of the NSO group.

Israel’s defense ministry said “representatives from a number of agencies” visited the NSO group to “investigate the publications and allegations raised in its case.”

The ministry did not specify which agencies were involved in the investigation, but local media said the Justice Department, the State Department, military intelligence and Mossad are investigating the company following the allegations.


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