Israel was warned of threats posed to human rights by NSO Group spyware
According to reports by Haaretz, the former state comptroller and retired judge Jospeh Shapira had warned senior defence ministry officials about the potential for problems, and specifically referenced the NSO Group as being problematic.
Shapira reportedly raised the alarm 10 months before the investigation started.
Haaretz reported that Shapira visited the offices of the Defence Export Control Agency (DECA) on 9 September, in the capacity of representatives of CybeRighTech (CRT), who assist cyber companies in limiting exposure to lawsuits resulting from violations to human rights.
It is the job of the DECA to regulate the exporting of Israeli defence items, and ensure that the country meets its international commitments.
It was during the September meeting that Shapira warned senior DECA officials that if they did not increase supervision of offensive cyber companies, then it was prone to “ blow up in Israel’s face”, according to a source who was described as being familiar with the details of the meeting.
Shapira asserted that because of the lack of supervision of cyber companies in Israel, including the NSO Group, issues of human rights were not being taken into account; before warning the DECA about the “dark side of the technology”, created by the likes of the NSO Group.
Responding to claims that they were warned of the problems related to offensive cyber technologies, the defence ministry said that no such warnings were made.
“CRT representatives came in for a meeting at DECA [CRT] requested in order to ask for the defence ministry’s support for a service that they want to offer cyber exporters in the field of ethics,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The meeting did not deal with NSO, and we do are not aware of any warnings expressed during it. The director of DECA made it clear to the representatives of [CRT] that the ministry as a regulator does not recommend to exporters who to consult with, and that it is very important that the consulting company know in depth DECA’s oversight processes,” the statement continued.
A recent investigation revealed that the NSO Group software had been used to target journalists, human rights activists, politicians, and regime opponents around the world, including in highly authoritarian countries.