On Tuesday, the Israeli firm at the center of the Pegasus spying controversy stated that it would support international legislation to prevent authoritarian countries from exploiting strong spyware like its own.
NSP expressed the point in a letter sent to theUnited Nations seen by AFP “strong support for the creation of an international legal framework” to regulate technology that permits very intrusive spying on people’s smartphones.
In July, NSO was embroiled in controversy after claims surfaced that their Pegasus software could be used to target tens of thousands of human rights activists, journalists, politicians, and corporate leaders throughout the world.
Pegasus-infected smartphones function as pocket surveillance devices, allowing the user to read the target’s messages, look at their photographs, monitor their position, and even turn on their camera without their knowledge.
In the letter, NSO stated that it takes the claims made by foreign media outlets “extremely seriously” and that it had begun an inquiry as soon as the controversy erupted in July.
“Any accusation that Pegasus has been misused by a State or State agency to target any journalist, human rights defender or political leader in violation of their human rights is naturally very concerning,” written by the company’s chairman Asher Levy.
NSO has come under fire for its software’s use, but it claims that Pegasus is designed to assist governments in combating crime and terrorism and that it has been used in this capacity numerous times. “How can governments catch pedophiles and prevent terrorist attacks without these kinds of tools? There is no way.”
According to the source, the organization screens potential clients for ethical issues and has rejected contracts from over 55 countries that were worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” from 55 nations. In addition, Levy stated in the letter that NSO had “already terminated customer relationships as a result of our human rights investigations.”
Another person known to the company said that NSO has little capacity to verify that the countries that have purchased its software do not utilise it for malicious purposes. “Sitting over the shoulder of a customer and seeing who they’re targeting is something that we cannot do,” the source said.
The UN, according to NSO, would be well-positioned to lead the process of establishing international regulations to better control the off-the-shelf monitoring business, which has exploded in popularity in recent years.
The firm would be “a constructive participant if given the opportunity”, the letter said.
According to critics, the ubiquitous availability of software such as Pegasus now allows even cash-strapped authoritarian countries to effectively acquire their own version of the US National Security Agency, complete with very invasive monitoring tools. While firms selling similar technologies have sprouted up all over the world, a number of them have been formed in Israel, with recruitment drawn from the military-intelligence elite.
In its letter, the NSO proposed that firms in the industry be required to implement human rights compliance procedures. The UN could offer guidance on “which states to consider as not having an acceptable track record of respecting international human rights”, it added. NSO continues to deny the media claims that shook governments throughout the world in July, claiming that they were based on false information “serious shortcomings and material inaccuracies”.
“The number of purported targets—or possible targets – is entirely implausible based on the number of licenses actually granted by NSO,” it said in the letter.