The chairman of the Israeli company NSO Group, whose software has been used worldwide to spy on human rights activists, journalists and politicians, resigned after it was revealed that spyware was also being used to monitor the activities of Israeli citizens.
Although Asher Levi himself claims his resignation was planned several months before the news of the scandal, it was likely that it was the public outcry sparked by the publication in the popular Israeli business daily Calcalist that forced him to resign. According to media reports, the Pegasus spyware, well known in certain circles, has been used to spy on Israelis since 2013.
According to Calcalist, the software was used by law enforcement to “monitor” local protest leaders and other activists, although Israeli police officials say the surveillance was carried out strictly within the law. According to some reports, the Israeli Attorney General has already announced an investigation into the matter.
The attention with which the news was received in Israel indirectly indicates that surveillance of its own citizens is viewed as a more serious offense than previous operations conducted in cyberspace aided by NSO spyware. The Pegasus software has been used to spy on citizens around the world, from journalists to possibly heads of state.
According to some reports, after information emerged about the worldwide use of this spyware, the Israeli authorities created a special group to deal with the aftermath of the scandal and diplomatic interactions with the affected countries. More recently, pressure on the NSO has skyrocketed after US authorities took an interest in the organization’s activities and the Department of Commerce blacklisted the organization and banned US companies from supplying goods or services to the NSO.