Israel blocked sale of Pegasus spyware to Ukraine, Estonia - NYT

Israel refused to sell Pegasus to Ukraine and Estonia so as not to cause harm to Israeli-Ukrainian relations.

 A man walks past the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
A man walks past the logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

Israel rejected purchase request for NSO's Pegasus spyware from Ukraine and Estonia out of concern for Israeli-Russian relations, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Ukraine and Estonia both requested to buy the spyware in order to gain access to Russian phones because of tensions with Russia in the past years.

The Defense Ministry sold the spyware to many foreign governments so they could be used for domestic repression, but it decided to reject the requests made from Ukraine and Estonia. 

Ukraine has been trying to buy Pegasus for years since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, but Israel put a sales embargo on the spyware to Ukraine, according to the report.

In the case of Estonia, according to the Times report, Estonia was in the process of purchasing Pegasus, but a senior Russian defense official contacted Israeli officials and told them that Estonia had used the spyware on his phone. Israel then blocked Estonia from using the system.

ISRAELI CYBER firm NSO Group’s exhibition stand is seen at ISDEF 2019, an international defense and homeland security expo held in Tel Aviv in 2019. (credit: KEREN MANOR)ISRAELI CYBER firm NSO Group’s exhibition stand is seen at ISDEF 2019, an international defense and homeland security expo held in Tel Aviv in 2019. (credit: KEREN MANOR)

There has been much scandal regarding the Pegasus spyware in the last year after reports that it was being abused and used to spy on people it was not intended to be used on.