Monday, August 15, 2022
Smartphone news

Pegasus Probe: Israeli Police Did Not Illegally Hack Phones, But Exceeded Authority

Police acquired information they were not legally allowed to have, such as calendar entries and contacts

Israeli police broke the law in obtaining information from citizens’ smartphones and not informing the Justice Ministry, but did not illegally hack phones, according to the group probing the phone-tapping scandal that rocked Israel earlier this year.

In a Monday report, the government-appointed investigators said there was no indication that the police illegally hacked the phones of Israelis mentioned in the media using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

They did not detail, however, the methods that police did use to acquire information that they were not legally allowed to have, such as calendar entries and contacts, Haaretz reported.

In February, Calcalist reported that Israel’s police hacked the phones of Israeli public figures including government employees and associates of former prime minister now Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, usually without a court order.

The allegations prompted Israel’s government to appoint a team led by Deputy Attorney General Amit Merari to investigate. 

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It was revealed in 2021 that intelligence agencies around the world used Pegasus to exploit unknown loopholes in WhatsApp, iMessage, and Android. The Israeli spyware allowed NSO Group’s clients the potential to gain complete access to any smartphone.

According to Haaretz, Merari’s team found “no indication” that Israeli police used Pegasus to infect phones without a warrant.

The team’s report did find a few cases where police tried to go beyond the warrant’s stipulations, but their attempts to infect the phones failed, “so no product was obtained” in those instances.

Their report said the police could be allowed to continue using the technology in question, subject to its “excess technological capabilities being neutralized.”


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