Dozens of rights groups urge EU to ban Israel's NSO spyware

Dozens of rights groups urge EU to ban Israel's NSO spyware
2 min read
04 December, 2021
A letter sent to the European Union which was signed by 86 human rights organisations urged the bloc to ban and sanction Israel's controversial NSO Group which is responsible for selling spyware that led to human rights violations across the world.
NSO Group is based in Israel [Getty]

Nearly 100 human rights groups this week called on the EU to sanction Israel's NSO Group and to blacklist sales and other transactions of its software, which is responsible for various human rights violations across the world.

The letter, signed by 86 organisations including Amnesty International, Access Now and the Digital Rights Foundation, said the EU’s sanctions policy allows it to target companies that are responsible for "violations or abuses that are of serious concern as regards to the objectives of the common foreign and security policy, including violations or abuses of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, or of freedom of opinion and expression".

"These rights have been repeatedly violated using NSO technology," the letter urged, referencing a UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion who found that use of spyware by governments could also "facilitate extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, or enforced disappearance of persons".

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The letter deplored the way in which NSO’s signature surveillance software, known as Pegasus, was used to hack the devices of six Palestinian human rights activists, three of whom worked for civil society organisations that Israel controversially branded as terrorist groups.

The spyware can be secretly installed without the victim taking any action and gives full access to their phone, including real-time communications.

It was sent to high representative Josep Borrell, the EU representative for foreign affairs and security, according to The Guardian.

On Friday, it was revealed that NSO's software was used against US State employees for the first-ever known time.

“We have been acutely concerned that commercial spyware like NSO Group software poses a serious counterintelligence and security risk to US personnel,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at briefing Friday.

Senior researcher John Scott-Railton of Citizen Lab, the public-interest sleuths at the University of Toronto who have been tracking Pegasus infections for years, called the discovery a giant wake-up call for the US government about diplomatic security.