Israeli spyware sparks scandal at home

Israeli spyware sparks scandal at home

Israeli spyware sparks scandal at home
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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israel’s ground-breaking surveillance technology was once feted as a prized export bolstering diplomatic ties abroad, but reports the secret spyware was also turned on citizens at home has trigged domestic outrage.

Recent bombshell allegations in Israeli media centre on the controversial Pegasus malware made by the Israeli firm NSO, which can turn a phone into a pocket spying device.

Last year, a sweeping investigation by an international consortium of journalists revealed the extent of Pegasus’s use worldwide.

Now reports allege the spyware was also used domestically, targeting dozens of Israelis who were not suspected of criminal activity and without a judge authorising the surveillance.

According to Israeli business daily Calcalist, the list of targets includes ex-advisors of fomer prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as his son Avner, senior leaders of government ministries, protest leaders and others.

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed action on Monday, saying the reported conduct was “unacceptable in a democracy.”

Calls by top officials have mounted for a state commission of inquiry, Israel’s highest-level probe.

Pegasus allows users to invisibly infiltrate a mobile phone, sucking up a person’s contacts, conversations, photographs and data, and enabling remote activation of a phone’s camera and microphone.

Writing in the Yediot Ahronot daily, Nadav Eyal noted that Israel developed cyber surveillance tools “mainly to track Palestinian terror organisations.”

Gradually the technology use expanded, first as Israel followed nonviolent Palestinian activists, and later when the spyware was privatised and sold abroad as “political gifts by the government of Netanyahu”, Eyal wrote.

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