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Pegasus spyware maker NSO hires lobbyists to get it off US blacklist – Report

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A new investigation published jointly by US-based ProPublica and Israel-based Shomrim has shown that beleaguered Israeli maker of the dangerous spyware, Pegasus, NSO Group has been making intense efforts hiring lobbyists working to get it off the US blacklist.

The Pegasus spyware uses the principle of ‘zero click’ to infect the devices of targets and can use a simple missed call to take over a victim’s phone.

The spyware can thoroughly take over any device by exploiting the security vulnerabilities in a device or app. It is able to take over Android, iPhone or Blackberry. Once it takes over a phone, it turns it into a secret camera and microphone and operate remotely, providing live feeds to the operator, and the owner of the phone would never know. It then takes over the target’s emails, messages and GPS coordinates.

According to the story published today July 12 in both the US and Israel, NSO Group has been conducting a broad campaign in the United States to get off the US government’s blacklist.

The US government last November added NSO to a Commerce Department list of restricted companies after a series of investigations by journalists revealed that Pegasus had been used by foreign governments against journalists and human rights activists

Companies on the US Commerce Department’s blacklist, officially called the “Entity List,” are not completely prohibited from doing business in the US. However, they are subject to licensing and other trade restrictions, making it more difficult to conduct business in the country or with Americans. NSO’s business has reportedly suffered since the designation, the reports said.

The reports say NSO has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past year in payments to lobbyists, public relations companies and law firms in the US, in the hope of reversing the Biden administration’s November decision, according to public records filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act and conversations with people familiar with the effort. These firms have approached members of the US House and Senate, as well as various media outlets and think tanks across the US, on NSO’s behalf.

Ghana is listed as a customer of NSO, and evidence has emerged in the last year to indicate that, despite the silence of authorities on the Pegasus spyware, it has been used in the country against at least three people connected to the opposition.

Since Ghana Business News broke the story about Ghana having obtained the dangerous spyware, there has never been government comment or statement on the subject – there has been stoic silence, despite all the emerging evidence.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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