NSO Group Spyware

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NSO Group Spyware
Short Title NSO Group's Spyware Pegasus Developed to Surveil Activists
Location Global
Date November 2019

Taxonomy Surveillance, Disclosure, Insecurity, Interrogation
Information Computer Device, Communication, Identifying, Behavioral, Location, Contact
Threat Actors NSO Group, WhatsApp, Facebook, Saudi Government, Quadranet, Choopa, Amazon, Law Enforcement

Affected Activists, Journalists, Lawyers, Diplomats
High Risk Groups Criminal, Human Rights Worker, Journalist, Political Activist, Freedom Fighter
Secondary Consequences Anxiety, Changed Behavior, Death

Founded in 2010, the NSO Group sells a surveillance program called Pegasus. In the company’s words, it “enables law enforcement and intelligence agencies to remotely and covertly extract valuable intelligence from virtually any mobile device”, but it was repeatedly found to be used to spy on activists, journalists, and dissidents.


Israel based NSO Group sells spyware called Pegasus that was repeatedly found to be used to surveil not just criminals and terrorists, as NSO insists, but also activists, journalists, lawyers, diplomats, and dissidents. Using the spyware to probe someone's phone for personal information can be interpreted as Interrogation.

The spyware allows its customers to secretly listen to calls, record keystrokes, read messages, and track internet history on a targeted phone. It also enables customers to use a phone’s microphone and camera as surveillance devices. Disclosure

Between April 29 and May 10 of 2019, the NSO Group used Facebook-owned WhatsAppInsecurity to compromise roughly 1,400 mobile phones belonging to users in several countries, including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico. WhatsApp sued the NSO Group for compromising the mobile phones of its users. The lawsuit identifies the operators of the malicious servers used by the NSO Group were Choopa, Quadranet, and Amazon Web Services.

Saudi Arabia paid $55 million in 2018 for the use of Pegasus, according to Israeli news reports. The NSO Group said its products were “licensed for the sole use of providing governments and law enforcement agencies the ability to lawfully fight terrorism and crime.”

NSO’s Pegasus spyware was also found on Jamal Khashoggi’s phone before he was murdered. A Saudi dissident close to Khashoggi said that NSO helped the Saudi Arabian government take over his smartphone and spy on his communications with Mr. Khashoggi. Surveillance

Mr. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Risk Statistics

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