Israeli authorities approved the sale of a spyware software from NSO Group to Saudi Arab in order to spy on Saudi dissidents, the Washington Post reported on Friday citing two former US officials.
The news comes days after Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi activist who lives in Canada, filed a lawsuit against NSO Group for their alleged role in the Khasgolli killing in October.
According to the report, NSO group, and its affiliate, Q Technologies, provided Saudi officials with a software called ‘Pegasus,’ a system that allows them to gather detailed information on targets. The surveillance system was used to help the government combat terror and crime within the country.
Israel hesitant to sell spyware software
Sources told the Post that Israeli officials were reluctant to sell the software to an Arab country that does not have any ties with the country.
Despite growing concerns among Israeli officials, a deal was struck to give the Saudi government access to NSO’s spyware software.
To this day, Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t have diplomatic relations, but the sale of their software was part of Israel’s attempt to improve ties with Saudi Arabia, according to the report.
A lawyer for NSO and Q Cyber Technologies refused to confirm or deny the sale. “They’re a supplier of a product. The customer makes representations that the product will be used in a way that’s lawful in that country. Obviously, there are sometimes abuses,” the attorney told the Post.
NSO has denied allegations that their software, Pegasus, was used to by the Saudi government to monitor Khasgolli before he was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
NSO issued a statement, claiming that the lawsuit was “completely unfounded” its cites that the lawsuit appears to be based on a “collection of press clippings that have been generated for the sole purpose of creating news headlines and do not reflect the reality of NSO’s work,” it said.
The company says its products “are licensed for the sole use of providing governments and law enforcement agencies the ability to lawfully fight terrorism and crime in the modern age.”
“We do not tolerate misuse of our products. If there is suspicion of misuse, we investigate it and take the appropriate actions, including suspending or terminating a contract,” an NSO statement said.