UK Government Under Fire Over NSO Group Links

The British government is under fire after it emerged that controversial espionage software provider NSO Group has been invited to a secretive security trade fair next month.

According to the Guardian, the government will host the Israeli firm as an exhibitor at the closed-door Security and Policing Home Office event in early March.

The Farnborough-based event is marketed by the Home Office as “the official government global security event, offering a world-class opportunity to meet, network and discuss the latest advances in delivering national security and resilience with UK suppliers, colleagues and government officials.”

The NSO Group is currently being sued by WhatsApp in the US over allegations it helped to develop and deploy malware used to spy on over 1000 users of the messaging app.

Attacks using the firm’s Pegasus spyware have been detected by rights activists, journalists, political dissidents and others, and are thought to be used by repressive regimes to monitor those who oppose them.

However, NSO Group has always claimed it offers its tools for only legitimate law enforcement and intelligence purposes.

It was recently forced to deny involvement in the hacking of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’s iPhone by Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

According to a report by UN special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, Bezos received an MP4 file loaded with malware via WhatsApp which then proceeded to exfiltrate data on a massive scale.

“The forensic analysis assessed that the intrusion likely was undertaken through the use of a prominent spyware product identified in other Saudi surveillance cases, such as the NSO Group's Pegasus-3 malware, a product widely reported to have been purchased and deployed by Saudi officials,” the UN analysis claimed.

“This would be consistent with other information. For instance, the use of WhatsApp as a platform to enable installation of Pegasus onto devices has been well-documented and is the subject of a lawsuit by Facebook/WhatsApp against NSO Group.”

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