One of the co-founders of the Israeli cyber-intelligence firm behind the powerful phone-surveillance software Pegasus, NSO Group, has denied that their products were involved in the Saudi Arabian government’s torture and murder of journalist in self-imposed exile Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, the Times of Israel reported on Saturday.
The network reported that researchers at Toronto’s Citizen Lab have tracked the use of Pegasus to at least 45 countries that “may be conducting surveillance operations,” including 10 that “appear to be actively engaged in cross-border surveillance.” Citizen Lab researchers found that Saudi officials targeted dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who lives in Canada under an asylum program and communicated with Khashoggi via the encrypted WhatsApp messaging service, and those messages were compromised.
In the case of Khashoggi, Citizen Lab researchers say the text message went to Abdulaziz, disguised as a shipping update about a package he had just ordered.
According to CNN, when asked whether NSO Group sold Pegasus to Saud al-Qahtani, a high-ranking and allegedly brutal political adviser to the prince, Hulio denied any such sale had occurred.
As Gizmodo previously reported in November 2018, human rights nonprofit Amnesty International has asked the Israeli government to revoke NSO Group’s export licenses after reports the firm had met with Saudi officials and that Pegasus was used to target its workers.