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September 10, 2019 4:16 pm

Israeli-Based Cyber Firm Vows to Confront Rights Abuses

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A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/ – Amid accusations by cyber experts that its software has been used by countries for political surveillance, Israel-based cyber firm NSO Group vowed on Tuesday to follow guidelines set by the United Nations in 2011 to thwart rights abuses.

NSO, valued at $1 billion, has given surveillance capabilities to governments and law-enforcement agencies. It has said that its products are for preventing crime and supporting search-and-rescue operations following natural disasters.

However, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico have allegedly used NSO’s cellphone hacking software, Pegasus, to conduct political surveillance, according to the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, whose work includes “combining practices from political science, law, computer science and area studies.”

Those three countries allegedly have used the software to surveil dissidents, reporters and other political targets.

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“NSO’s products provide governments with the tools to help stop the world’s worst terror attacks and most dangerous criminals,” said NSO Co-Founder and Chief Executive Shalev Hulio. “But [we] also understand that misuse could represent human rights violations.”

Amnesty International expressed skepticism over NSO’s promise to address the issue.

“NSO is a company that has a history of saying one thing and doing another,” Danna Ingleton, deputy director of Amnesty Tech, the group’s technology and human-rights division, told Reuters. “The reason why they are doing this is to whitewash violations.”

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