The United States has put Israeli spy software development company Pegasus on a sanctions list. The company is therefore subject to trade restrictions with American companies. The Trojan horse developed and distributed by the NSO group, with which cell phones can be spied on transparently and unnoticed, has been at the center of the revelations of the Pegasus project resulting from cooperation between international media.
The research, in which, in addition to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR, WDR and Die Zeit were involved from Germany, highlighted the misuse of the software originally intended for risk prevention. With the help of Pegasus, hundreds of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across five continents have been selected as targets for the powerful spyware. Many politicians have also been targeted, including former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state.
Now the US Department of Commerce has announced that there is evidence regarding the NSO Group and another Israeli company, the software company Candiru, that these companies have “developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that use these tools. for malicious surveillance of government officials, journalists, businessmen, activists, academics and embassy employees have used “.
The NSO Group was “appalled” by the move, a company spokesperson said. ONS technologies supported “national security interests and US policies,” he said, “by preventing terrorism and crime.” The company will therefore work to reverse this decision.
A total of four companies were on the list because their activities “were against the interests of national security or foreign policy of the United States,” as the press release noted. Positive Technologies (Russia) and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy (Singapore) marketed cyber tools “which are used to gain unauthorized access to information systems and thus threaten the privacy and security of individuals and organizations around the world. whole”.
Project Pegasus caused a sensation around the world as many people identified as the target of espionage only discovered through research that their cell phones could have been infiltrated. The traces of Pegasus could then be detected on dozens of cell phones. Paris-based non-profit publisher Forbidden Stories and human rights organization Amnesty International have accessed lists of around 50,000 phone numbers and shared them with media in ten countries.
The list also included a number of French President Emanuel Macron among the 14 heads of state and government who may have been the target of espionage attacks. The Elysee Palace raised serious allegations at the time, Macron summoned the National Security Council and personally confronted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over the phone. Morocco, suspected of being the instigator of the attacks against the French government, vehemently denies such an accusation.
Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Saad Hariri of Lebanon, Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, Mustafa Madbuli of Egypt, Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani of Morocco and Imran Khan, Prime Minister Pakistan, were also affected.
In Germany, the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Federal Intelligence Service have now admitted that they have Pegasus.
Export restrictions apply to trade in US goods with respect to companies on the so-called “entity list”. The United States uses it to sanction companies whose activities are contrary to the national security of the United States or their foreign policy interests. According to the US Department of Commerce, companies could still do business with companies on this list. However, he stresses that “transactions of all kinds with listed companies carry a red flag” and recommends that American companies “proceed with caution in such transactions”.