These are bad times for NSO Group and its spy tool Pegasus. And it is that as the investigations related to its use progress, new truly questionable actions are being discovered, while others are confirmed about which there were previously suspicions. Project Pegasus already confirmed many of the suspicions that previously existed around this Trojan, and subsequent investigations showed that Pegasus has been used to spy even on heads of state.
In other words, NSO Goup has always stated that it always ensures the proper use of Pegasus, but the tests are showing that nothing is further from the truth. Continual negligence that, for example, has led the company to be sanctioned in the United States (hopefully Europe already adopting a similar decision), for allowing its Trojan to be used to spy on US State Department officials.
And today we have had one more sample of it, thanks to a publication of The Washington Post, as the newspaper reports that a forensic analysis has confirmed that Pegasus was used to spy on the wife, now a widow, of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. An assassination perpetrated by agents of the Saudi government and that was carried out, supposedly, to end the activities of Khashoggi as a dissident. Let us remember that the journalist worked precisely at The Washington Post.
The first investigations already revealed that Pegasus had been used to spy on Khashoggi, what was not known until now is that The NSO Group Trojan was also used to spy on the smartphone of his wife, Hanan Elatr. This would clearly show that Pegasus has not only been used to spy on specific targets, but also on their personal environments, further tarnishing the image of the company and the service.
NSO Group has denied on many occasions being related to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but that at first signs of Pegasus use were detected on his smartphone, and now it is known that his wife was also the object of surveillance with it , generates enough doubts not whether the company was directly involved in the murder, but yes on the use that those responsible for his murder could hypothetically make of the information obtained with the Trojan.
According to the Washington Post investigation, Pegasus was installed several months before Khashoggi’s death, in April 2018, when Elatr was arrested by UAE officials at Dubai International Airport. Elatr claims that she was detained and questioned about Khashoggi’s activities and that her phone was taken from her. That same day, according to the analysis, the Trojan was installed on his phone. Shortly after she was released but, of course, from that moment she was already subjected to espionage through her mobile.
The situation for NSO Group seems more complex every day, and it is that revelations like all the ones we have recently received have put Pegasus in the spotlight. We will still have to wait to see the effects of all this, but To date, it does not seem that having its prevalence is a very safe bet.