No Israeli government involvement in alleged NSO-WhatsApp hack: minister
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[November 01, 2019]
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli
government on Friday denied any involvement in an alleged cyber- hack by
Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group.
Distancing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government from the
alleged attempts to send malware to the mobile devices of a number of
Whatsapp users, Israeli security cabinet minister Zeev Elkin said that
if anyone had done anything "forbidden" they could expect to find
themselves in court.
"NSO is a private player using capabilities that Israelis have,
thousands of people are in the cyber field, but there is no Israeli
government involvement here, everyone understands that, this is not
about the state of Israel," Elkin told 102.FM Tel Aviv Radio.
On Tuesday, WhatsApp sued NSO Group accusing it of helping government
spies break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four
continents in a hacking spree whose targets included diplomats,
political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.
The Facebook-owned software giant alleges that NSO Group built and sold
a hacking platform that exploited a flaw in WhatsApp-owned servers to
help clients hack into the cellphones of at least 1,400 users between
April 29, 2019, and May 10, 2019.
On Thursday Reuters reported that senior government officials in many
U.S.-allied countries were targeted earlier this year with hacking
software that used WhatsApp to take over users’ phones, according to
people familiar with the messaging company’s investigation.
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The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August
3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo
NSO has denied the allegations "in the strongest possible terms,"
saying it would fight them "vigorously."
WhatsApp is used by 1.5 billion people monthly and has often touted
a high level of security, including end-to-end encrypted messages
that cannot be deciphered by WhatsApp or other third parties.
In his radio interview Elkin said "I don't see any political fallout
from this incident."
He added: "It is true that when people do things that are forbidden
- I have no way of determining whether they did indeed do anything
forbidden - then the justice system here and in other countries will
throw the book at them.
(Reporting by Dan Williams; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by
Stephen Farrell and Angus MacSwan)
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