Despite the abuse of NSO spy software, Israel is lobbying in the United States to remove the manufacturer from the black list

The Israeli government has called on the Biden administration to remove from the blacklist the hacking software sold by the Israeli company NSO Group. The United States imposed sanctions on the company last week because it acted “against the interests of national security or the foreign policy interests of the United States.” If the United States accuses the NSO of acting against its interests, then it implicitly accuses Israel, which licenses the software, of doing the same, officials say.

The software, created by the NSO Group, was used to spy on journalists, opposition groups and human rights activists. On the other hand, the NSO says the software should help countries fight organized crime and terrorism.

There have been many revelations of the abuse of Pegasus software, including that it was used to hack the phones of political opponents in dozens of countries. The latest accusation came on Monday when international experts on computer security and privacy said that Pegasus was used against Palestinian human rights activists, questioning whether the Israeli government itself was behind the hacking.

If these claims are true, it would be another case of using software against human rights defenders and the first case of use within Israel.

Israel insists it has strict control over software licensing, with a review process by the Ministry of Defense set up in part to ensure that no commercial dealings jeopardize Israel’s relations with the United States.

The Office of the Israeli Prime Minister and the Ministry of Defense denied that Pegasus was used to hack Palestinian phones. An NSO spokeswoman said the company would not say who used the software and did not have access to information against when their program was used.

Israel’s campaign to lift sanctions against the NSO and another Israeli company, Candiru, will aim to convince the Biden administration that their activities are of great importance for the security of both countries.

Officials who insisted on anonymity said The New York Times that Israel will be willing to commit to much tighter oversight of software licensing.

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