In a meeting with his counterpart Florence Parly, Gantz said NSO’s technology had not been used to hack the phones of Macron or other French officials, according to Channel 13.
“Israel takes the allegations seriously,” Gantz told Parly, according to a Defense Ministry statement.
« [Gantz] noted that the State of Israel approves the export of cyber products exclusively to government entities, for lawful use and only for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime and the fight against terrorism, ”the statement added. .
“He also informed Minister Parly that officials visited the ONS office today and that Israel is fully investigating the allegations. “
The Defense Ministry has previously said that if it finds that NSO Group has violated the terms of its export licenses, it “will take appropriate action.”
NSO has largely denied the allegations made in the in-depth investigation released last week by a number of media outlets, and called the accusations part of an effort “to smear the entire Israeli cyber industry.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is greeted by his French counterpart Florence Parly (hidden) in Paris on July 28, 2021 (Ariel Hermoni / Ministry of Defense)
Parly told Gantz of the “clarifications awaited today by France and on which depend the confidence and mutual respect of our two countries,” said his ministry, adding that it was the first meeting of ministers of Defense of the two countries since 2013.
Parly, a Defense Ministry source said on Tuesday, was aimed “at” how much knowledge the Israeli government has of the activities of NSO clients, and what arrangements have been put in place – and will be in the future – to prevent these highly intrusive tools are not hijacked. . “
Pegasus spyware developed by NSO Group can turn on a phone’s camera or microphone and collect its data.
“Verification” in progress
In an explosive investigation released last week, NSO was accused of selling spyware to the governments of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates, which used it to hack the phones of dissidents and human rights activists.
According to the report, Morocco used spyware to track down several French journalists, and Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation into the allegations.
The phone numbers of Macron and key members of his government were among those found on a list of 50,000 numbers considered to be potential targets for Pegasus spyware, although the investigation did not determine if it had actually been. pirate. Macron reportedly called Prime Minister Naftali Bennett directly last week to demand that Israel investigate the allegations.
Macron also changed phones and numbers following the Pegasus revelations.
The Israeli defense establishment has set up a committee to review NSO’s activities, including the process by which export licenses are granted.
Pegasus’ list of suspected targets includes at least 600 politicians, 180 journalists, 85 human rights activists and 65 business leaders.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Gantz and Parly also discussed the Iranian nuclear issue as well as concerns over arms deliveries to Lebanon, his ministry said.
He also met Bernard Emie, head of the French foreign intelligence service DGSE, and leaders of the local Jewish community.