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The NSO group, the new israeli Mossad

Life in Israel has always been difficult, between the crises in relations with the Palestinians and the release of the hostages in Hamas hands.

The Israeli television has done nothing but report these stories through TV series that have reached everyone, for their extraordinary action but also for the innovation with which they are treated. Alongside the important role of the Israeli intelligence, unrealistic situations emerge which, instead, deal with episodes which have really happened. The series, False Flag, deals with some Israeli citizens to whom the identities are stolen and who shortly afterwards become the principal responsible for an alleged terrorist attack. Another television series from the Jewish country, When Heroes Fly, points out how and how much the people of Israel are willing to do anything to reach a goal/person, even if they are traveling to a remote continent like Latin America.

Based on these behaviors you won't be surprised that an Israeli technology company, focused on cyber intelligence, called NSO Group is able to control all Android and iOS phones in the world. The Agency was founded in 2010 and has 500 employees. The founders Niv Carmi, Omri Lavie and Shalev Hulio are former members of Unit 8200, the Israeli Armed Forces computer department in charge of electronically monitoring every aspect of Palestinian life. The agency is known for its surveillance methods that are not very respectful of human rights, which have led many activists, dissidents, journalists and political opponents to take great risks for their own safety.

Among the tools used is a spyware called Pegasus, which is sold by the company that has immunity to government agencies and law enforcement agencies responsible for its use. They use it to track where terrorists, drug traffickers and digital native pedophiles or lovers of electronic systems that are the most difficult to detect. The latest cases reported on Pegasus raise several doubts about its effective use. The Saudi reporter Jamal Khashoggi was killed by the Saudi secret services, after they had studied him for months thanks to Pegasus, knowing his movements by heart and getting to know in a maniacal way the people with whom he exchanged messages or had conversations.

Another similar case is that of the human rights activist Ahmad Mansoor, who in 2016 received by text message a suspicious invitation to click on a link, which Mansoor himself never opened because of excessive caution. The Citizen Lab in Toronto explained to the same activist how the infected link worked. When displayed, the link activated a surveillance mechanism that allowed the spyware to access the information contained in the mobile device and thus control the camera and microphone of the affected mobile phone.

After these two illustrious victims, Pegasus made a bigger one, WhatsApp. The world's most widely used local messaging system was hit at its weakest point, voice calls. The end to end encryption, which it is used in the app did not hold up in front of the malicious software, represented by the same spyware that hit 1,400 mobile phones, with the aim of monitoring the communications of a target class of WhatsApp. As a result of this incident, WhatsApp decided to start investigating and then filed a full-fledged lawsuit against NSO Group and its servers in front of the Northern California District Court. WhatsApp 's technicians emphasized the link between each attack on the NSO Group and its servers, making it clear that there were only 100 individuals involved, thus falling within the scope of a targeted action. NSO then had to retract its version in the face of concrete evidence that showed its involvement.

The issue is still on the agenda today. According to several governments, police forces and agencies, the data would be safer with the addition of backdoors in the software and tools that would allow the encrypted messages to be clear. In this sense, the USA, UK and Australia have explicitly asked Facebook not to use end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp instead has always declared as a mantra the respect of users' privacy. The electronic surveillance tools next to the messaging apps that are used on the net today are dangerous places where you can encounter various malware or malicious people that can come to control you even when you don't notice it. Very often our apps require us to update quickly, which is good to do because it reduces exposure to such risks. Despite this, the NSO Group, like the CIA and the FBI, continues its surveillance activities, exposing everyone to the risk of a cyber-attack that can significantly compromise the lives of those affected, thus realizing a possible future scenario, similar to the one described in the German series You are Wanted, where the most important right to privacy can be violated.


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  • L'Autore

    Domenico Barbato

    Laureato in Scienze Internazionali Istituzioni Europee a dicembre 2018 con una tesi sul caso Saramaka, primo caso di violazione del diritto di proprietà indigena di fronte agli organi dell'OSA. A gennaio ha inoltre svolto un corso sulla cybersecurity che gli ha permesso di comprendere le dinamiche relative alla privacy e ai diritti ad esso inerenti. Ha partecipato a diverse simulazioni delle Nazioni Unite MUN e ha anche assistito al primo International Participant Meeting, nella funzione di staff.

    Attualmente collabora con Mondo Internazionale scrivendo di America Latina per Framing the World ed è Vice-Responsabile del progetto Tra Scienza e Conoscenza.

    ll suo sogno sarebbe quello di poter diventare un giornalista su dinamiche internazionali e/o sullo sport. Magari aggiungendo alle competenze acquisite durante i tre anni di studi universitari, tra cui una buona conoscenza di inglese e spagnolo, una migliore comprensione delle dinamiche sportive.

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