Israeli cyberware company disputes software related to Khashoggi murder

"We follow an extremely rigorous protocol for licensing our products — which are only provided after a full vetting as well as licensing by the Israeli government.“

By
December 9, 2018 09:31
2 minute read.
A demonstrator holds picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of Saudi

A demonstrator holds picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest in front of Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, October 5, 2018. (photo credit: OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS)

 
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NSO Group, an Israeli company, denied the allegations claiming its technology was used in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, according to a report by the Washington Post.

“While as a matter of security, we will not discuss whether a particular government has licensed our technology, this lawsuit is completely unfounded. It shows no evidence that the company’s technology was used and appears to be founded on a collection of so-called reports and articles that have been generated for the sole purpose of creating news headlines that do not reflect the reality of NSO’s work,” an NSO spokesperson said in the report.

"We follow an extremely rigorous protocol for licensing our products — which are only provided after a full vetting as well as licensing by the Israeli government.“

If the NSO group did provide technology to the Saudis, the statement implies that it would have had to be licensed by the Israeli government.

The report traced the history of Saudi spyware acquisition to their infatuation with surveillance. The Saudis had to find a way to monitor the social media activity, especially following the Arab Spring revolts that started in 2010 and as the Saudis later claimed, to fight ISIS, and Iranian threats. Reportedly, Iran launched a virus in 2012 that damaged thousands of Saudi computers, that took months to repair.


While the Saudis were gaining weapons for defense, they could have easily been used offensively, such is the social media - Used freely by the people and it can become a powerful tool for unification and activism. Monitored by the government it may become a tool for oppression.

The Israeli fame for cyber warfare has been widely known, and the Saudi leadership, seeking exactly that, was casting its eyes towards the Israeli potential their solutions could bring. The connection was not easy, as Israel is not considered a favorite among the Saudis. Making their interest public, Israeli surveillance companies sought the Saudis, which created the alliances seen today.

“Every new surveillance tool has a potential for abuse. That’s why in this country, we have a robust system of law and even a special court to oversee how they are used. In places with fewer legal protections for individuals and no real oversight from other parts of government, these tools are easily abused, and that should concern us all," Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, described the dangers of this technology to the Post.

According to the allegations, Khashoggi has had his private messages and correspondences spied upon using the Israeli technologies provided to the Saudis. That breach of privacy and information collected might have been a critical factor in the reasoning behind his murder.

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