December 9, 2018
Washington Post security analyst David Ignatius reports that Israel approved the sale of the Pegasus spy software by the Israeli cyber-spy company NSO to Saud Arabia.
The program was allegedly used by the Saudis to intercept calls and messages from the cell phone belonging to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
According to the report, the software intercepted text messages between Khashoggi and a Saudi friend who lives in Canada, where they wrote about the idea of establishing a network of Saudis that would oppose the regime.
The Saudi national NSO survived filed a lawsuit in Tel Aviv last week against the company and the Ministry of Defense, claiming that their actions eventually led to the murder.
According to the Washington Post, which relies on American sources, Israel initially feared selling such a sensitive cyber weapon to an Arab country but decided to go ahead anyway due to its interest in developing ties with the Saudis.
The contacts with the Saudis and the subsequent sale were carried out through a subsidiary of NSO located in Luxembourg.
Last week, Omar Abdulaziz filed a lawsuit against Israeli surveillance company NSO Group for allegedly providing Saudi Arabia with spyware that lead to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
Abdulaziz, a critic of the Saudi government who has received asylum in Canada, claimed that he was friends with Khashoggi and that he was targeted by the same spyware.
According to Abdulaziz, in June of this year he clicked on a link on his mobile phone, and that is when he believes his phone was exposed to the spyware. He believes that the resulting access Saudi Arabia had to his phone was the "crucial factor" that led to the brutal murder of Khashoggi.
"The spying that was directed against (Abdulaziz) and the disclosure of the content of the conversations and messages between him and Khashoggi through the system contributed in a tangible way to the decision to assassinate Mr. Khashoggi by the assassins at the consulate," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit cited news reports that NSO Group sold the technology behind the spyware to Saudi Arabia for $55 million in 2017.