Popular Israeli spyware vendor NSO Group to no longer allow customers to hack UK citizens, sources close to the company say told the Guardian this week. The changes have been “hard-coded” into NSO’s infamous malware, Pegasus, and will make it impossible to target future UK-based phone numbers in the future, the sources say.
These abrupt changes were undoubtedly stimulated by a recent UK hacking scandal involving Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, daughter of the King of Jordan and ex-wife of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. After leaving Dubai and fleeing to London in 2019, Haya’s phone was repeatedly hacked at the behest of her ex-husband, Sheik Mohammed, while the former couple were embroiled in a custody battle of their two children. Five of Haya’s associates were also hacked, including two of his lawyers. The case came to public view again this week, when a British high court judge judged that the hacking incident had occurred and NSO malware was involved.
As a result, sources close to the spyware vendor now claim that changes to the company’s software ensure that its customers will no longer be allowed to target UK-based phone numbers: “We’ve completely shut down, coded hard in the system [Pegasus], to all our customers. We released a quick update in the middle of the night that none of our customers can work on UK numbers, ”the source apparently said. told the Guardian. The update blocks hacking of phones with the region country code: +44.
It’s … good, if it’s true. However, it’s unclear why the company wouldn’t just make an official statement, instead of allowing unofficial sources to make statements to the press.
The company suffered a storm of global criticism earlier this year following the launch of the “Pegasus project», An international collaboration between journalists and researchers that revealed how NSO spyware is used around the world. The project was based largely on a list of some 50,000 phone numbers that the researchers say represent “potential targets” for Pegasus surveillance. The list, which NSO denied is legitimate, contents the number of presidents, prime ministers and a king, among others. For years, the company has maintained that its product is only used to track down and monitor “terrorists” and other criminals, but time and time again, Pegasus has been discovered on the devices of political activists, human rights lawyers. man, journalists, politicians and businessmen. .
ONS Group has also long maintained that it does not allow its malware to be used against citizens of the United States, and that phones with the country code +1 are not hackable with its products. However, in January of last year, It has been reported that the FBI was “investigating the role” of NSO in “possible hacks against US residents and businesses.” It turned out that the investigation then involved Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose phone was, according to reports, personally hacked by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, possibly to steal intimate messages and photos, like photos of the tech mogul’s cock. It was suspected at the time the NSO malware was the product used in the episode, although the company repeatedly denied that he had any implication.