‘Blame our customers for misusing hacking software’: NSO Group

The makers of the Pegasus spyware software, NSO Group, blamed its customers for misusing its software to hack into phones of innocent people.

The Israeli firm is facing international criticism, after reporters obtained a list of alleged potential targets for spyware, including activists, politicians and journalists.

Investigations have begun as the list, of 50,000 phone numbers, contained a small number of hacked phones.

Pegasus infects iPhones and Android devices, allowing operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones and cameras.

The Israeli company says its software is intended for use against criminals and terrorists and made available to only military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies from countries with good human-rights records.

But a consortium of news organisations published dozens of stories based around the list, including allegations French President Emmanuel Macron’s number was on it and may have been targeted.

NSO said that it has systems in place to vet security services it sells to but does not routinely investigate who is targeted.

Earlier this month, NSO Group launched its Transparency Report, saying: “We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and act with stewardship and transparency… to ensure public safety and concern for human rights and privacy.”

But on Wednesday, the spokesman said: “If I am the manufacturer of a car and now you take the car and you are driving drunken and you hit somebody, you do not go to the car manufacturer, you go to the driver.

“We are sending the system to governments, we get all the correct accreditation and do it all legally.

“You know, if a customer decides to misuse the system, he will not be a customer anymore.

“But all the allegations and all the finger-pointing should be at the customer.”