A UAE government agency downloaded NSO Group’s Pegasus software on the cellphone of the wife of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
Khashoggi was later killed by Saudi Arabian agents. The Biden administration has accused Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of giving the order, though Riyadh has said some of his lieutenants acted independently and that it has tried and convicted them for the crime.
NSO CEO Shalev Hulio has repeatedly denied that his company or its clients were involved in killing Khashoggi in any way.
The latest Washington Post report, based on an updated study from Citizen Lab in Toronto, would be the most direct evidence to date that the UAE abused the Pegasus software to potentially track Khashoggi’s wife, which could be connected to his death.
Until now, the focus was on the Saudis’ involvement, however, The Washington Post report said Citizen Lab was able to trace the cyber data traveling between Khashoggi’s wife and a UAE government agency website that was a client of NSO.
In addition, the report discusses UAE officials arresting Khashoggi’s wife, taking her cellphone, and that the cyber traffic between her phone and the website started in parallel to the time when she was arrested.
NSO continued to deny its clients were involved with the Khashoggi matter in any way, saying its technology hacks cellphones without the need for physical access.
However, the article cites NSO’s prior marketing materials that included multiple options for hacking cell phones, both by remote and physical access.
NSO is currently going through the roughest period of its corporate existence. It has been blacklisted by the US, with the Israeli Defense Ministry limiting it and other cyber offense firms’ future clientele. This has increased predictions that it will not be able to pay off its loans amid new weekly negative reports hammering its reputation.
Despite the coverage, NSO maintains that the vast majority of its activities have included thwarting terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere on behalf of governments that have positive relations with Israel.