The Financial Times reported that the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group informed its clients that it is able to mine user data from major social media. NSO is based in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, and employs 600 people worldwide. The private equity firm Novalpina Capital has the majority of the shares in NSO Group.
“[NSO Group] told buyers its technology can surreptitiously scrape all of an individual’s data from the servers of Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, according to people familiar with its sales pitch” reported the FT.
According to the AFP, an NSO spokesperson denied the allegation.
“There is a fundamental misunderstanding of NSO, its services and technology,” the spokesman said.
“NSO’s products do not provide the type of collection capabilities and access to cloud applications, services, or infrastructure as listed and suggested in today’s FT article.”
The FT report cites documents it had viewed and descriptions of a product demonstration. According to the report, the surveillance capabilities of the company had “evolved to capture the much greater trove of information stored beyond the phone in the cloud, such as a full history of a target’s location data, archived messages or photos”.
NSO pointed out that it does not operate its solutions, including the Pegasus spyware, instead, it only licenses them law enforcement and government agencies “for the sole purpose of preventing or investigating serious crime including terrorism”.
Pegasus is a perfect tool for surveillance, it is able to steal any kind of data from smartphones and use them to spy on the surrounding environment through their camera and microphone.
The NSO Group operated in the dark for several years, until the researchers from the Citizenlab organization and the Lookout firm spotted its software in targeted attacks against UAE human rights defender, Ahmed Mansoor.
The researchers also spotted other attacks against a Mexican journalist who reported to the public a story of the corruption in the Mexican government.
NSO replied that its surveillance solution was “intended to be used exclusively for the investigation and prevention of crime and terrorism.”