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Saudis sought to buy Israeli hacking system: Report

Published: November 25, 2018
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Saudi Arabia has allegedly negotiated with an Israeli firm to buy an advanced system that hacks cell phones, Israeli daily Haaretz reported Sunday.

The newspaper said two representatives of Herzliya-based NSO Group Technologies met Saudi officials in Vienna in 2017 to promote the Pegasus 3 software.

Haaretz identified the two Saudi officials as Abdullah al-Malihi, an associate of Prince Turki al-Faisal – a former head of the kingdom’s intelligence services – and Nasser al-Qahtani, who presented himself as the deputy of the current intelligence chief.

During the meeting, the NSO representatives allegedly showed a PowerPoint presentation of the advanced cyber system’s capabilities.

The issue came to knowledge as part of a complaint filed to the Israeli police by a man identified as a European businessman with connection in the Gulf.

There was no comment from Saudi authorities on the allegation.

NSO, for its part, said it “has according to the law and its products are used in the fight against crime and terror.”

Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor and whistleblower, claimed early this month that software made by an Israeli cyber security firm was used to track murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv via a video call from Russia, Snowden said Pegasus spyware sold to governments by the Israeli NSO Group Technologies was used to track opponents.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, weeks later the Saudi administration admitted he was killed there, blaming a rogue group of Saudi operatives.

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.

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US whistle-blower Edward Snowden yesterday claimed that Saudi Arabia used Israeli spyware to target murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv via a video link, Snowden claimed that software made by an Israeli cyber intelligence firm was used by Saudi Arabia to track and target Khashoggi in the lead up to his murder on 2 October inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The government of Saudi Arabia is spying on expatriate dissidents in Canada using commercially available software designed by an Israeli company, according to researchers at the University of Toronto. This is alleged in a new report published on Monday by the Citizen Lab, a research unit of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, which focuses on information technology, international security and human rights. The report’s authors say they have “high confidence” that intrusive surveillance software is being deployed to target the electronic communications of Saudi dissidents, including Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi activist who has been living in Canada’s Quebec province for nearly 10 years.

An Amnesty International employee has been targeted with Israeli-made surveillance software, the human rights group said Wednesday, adding to a growing number of examples of Israeli technology being used to spy on human rights workers and opposition figures in the Middle East and beyond.

A seven-year-old Israeli firm founded by three veterans of Israel's military intelligence unit is raking in millions selling CIA-tier hacking software to governments around the world. With over 200 employees, a sales arm in Bethesda, Maryland, and a long list of clients identified by watchdogs which have dubious civil rights records, the NSO Group - owned by U.S.-based Francisco Partners, charges $500,000 plus $65K per phone to completely hack and infiltrate a device with their flagship "Pegasus" software suite.

The Israeli company has become a world leader in cyber infiltration and has been used against activists and dissidents the world over.

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