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February 1, 2022 9:30 am

Israel Police Concede Misuse of NSO Spyware on Citizens

avatar by i24 News

The Instagram app on a smartphone. Photo: Santeri Viinamäki via Wikimedia Commons.

i24 News – After denying all allegations of wrongdoing for weeks, the Israel Police conceded on Tuesday that it may have misused NSO Group spyware to monitor Israeli citizens.

“Additional findings” from an internal probe emerged that may “change things, in certain aspects,” the Times of Israel reported a police spokesperson as saying.

In January, the news site Calcalist published a report accusing Israel’s police force of using Pegasus software on Israelis without court authorization since 2013.

They allegedly used the spyware on a list of targets including protest leaders and politicians.

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NSO Group’s Pegasus software allows its users to remotely access mobile phones infected with the spyware.

It exploits security vulnerabilities in cellular operating systems to retrieve a device’s contents — from messages to photos, call history, and location data — and was sold to intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world.

The program also allows one to remotely activate a phone’s camera or microphone without the owner’s knowledge.

Following the Calcalist report, the Israel Police said that they always used the software with a warrant, and never took data from phones.

The statement on Tuesday was in response to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announcing an exposé probe into reports that the police force targeted activists and other Israelis using Pegasus.

During a meeting on eavesdropping in Israel’s parliament, a police representative argued that legislation is outdated and that some of the systems used by law enforcement intercept data “automatically,” Haaretz reported.

Mendelblit’s investigative team has until July 1 to submit any findings regarding whether officers overstepped their authority in approving the use of the Pegasus spyware.

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