Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Tracking & Law Enforcement

Israeli Probe Finds Police Spied on Citizen With Pegasus

An Israeli government probe into allegations of police spying on citizens using Pegasus malware on Monday said police successfully infected the phone of one individual subject to a court order.

An Israeli government probe into allegations of police spying on citizens using Pegasus malware on Monday said police successfully infected the phone of one individual subject to a court order.

The finding represents the first time the Israeli government has confirmed that the deeply controversial spy-ware — ostensibly developed by Israeli firm NSO Group as a counter-terror tool for government clients — has been deployed against a citizen of the Jewish state.

But the probe, backed early this month by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, challenged allegations in Israeli business daily Calcalist that police had hacked the phones of dozens of Israelis who were not criminal suspects.

“There is no indication that the Israeli Police used the Pegasus system in its hands to infect, without a court order, a mobile phone from the list of people that was published in the press,” said the three-person investigation team, headed by Deputy Attorney General Amit Merari.

But “two people who were subject to a court order authorising tracking of computer communications were found,” and there was “an attempt at infection” in those two cases.

“The infection succeeded” in one of those cases, the investigation found.

Pegasus enables users to remotely activate a phone’s microphone and camera and suck up the data inside.

The US blacklisted NSO Group in November following a global investigation that revealed Pegasus has been used by repressive regimes to target journalists, dissidents, diplomats and others.

Israel itself was then rocked last month when Calcalist reported police used Pegasus on citizens, a claim police denied.

The newspaper said ex-advisors of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as his son Avner, senior leaders of government ministries and protest leaders figured among a list of 26 people targeted by police using the malware.

A key witness in an ongoing trial of Netanyahu for alleged corruption was one of those named as a target.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the reported conduct was “unacceptable in a democracy”.

Calcalist said in an editorial Monday that the preliminary probe “requires serious consideration and a new check of the findings … published in Calcalist”, promising to undertake such a check.

Israeli public security minister Omer Bar Lev on Monday wrote on Twitter that the report was “a resounding acquittal for the Israeli police”.

Anat Ben-David, associate professor of communication at the Open University of Israel and co-founder of Privacy Israel, said the probe’s findings “refute the claims made by Calcalist about the infection of these individuals’ phones without a court order.”

However, she said, the report revealed that police had been using Pegasus, and that they appeared to be relying on court orders to authorise the spying.

Merari’s team said it will continue its probe to find whether Pegasus or other software was used without a court order on Israelis by extending the search beyond the 26 individuals listed by Calcalist.

She wrote that the probe will also examine whether police exceeded their authority in using spyware on citizens.

Related: FBI Confirms It Bought Spyware From Israel’s NSO Group

Related: Israeli Lawyer, Hungarian Rights Group Target Pegasus Spyware

Related: Google Says NSO Pegasus Zero-Click ‘Most Technically Sophisticated Exploit Ever Seen’

Written By

AFP 2023

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

Join this webinar to learn best practices that organizations can use to improve both their resilience to new threats and their response times to incidents.


Join this live webinar as we explore the potential security threats that can arise when third parties are granted access to a sensitive data or systems.


Expert Insights

Related Content


No one combatting cybercrime knows everything, but everyone in the battle has some intelligence to contribute to the larger knowledge base.


The FBI dismantled the network of the prolific Hive ransomware gang and seized infrastructure in Los Angeles that was used for the operation.


The Hive ransomware website has been seized as part of an operation that involved law enforcement in 10 countries.


Spanish Court agreed to extradite Joseph James O’Connor to he U.S., who allegedly took part in the July 2020 hacking of Twitter accounts of...


US government reminds the public that a reward of up to $10 million is offered for information on cybercriminals, including members of the Hive...


A hacker who reportedly posed as the CEO of a financial institution claims to have obtained access to the more than 80,000-member database of...


Employees of Chinese tech giant ByteDance improperly accessed data from social media platform TikTok to track journalists in a bid to identify the source...


Russian Vladislav Klyushin made tens of millions of dollars by hacking into U.S. computer networks to steal insider information.