WASHINGTON — Israel has long been accused of spying on U.S. citizens inside the U.S., and in 2019 The Guardian reported that Israel was suspected by U.S. officials of having planted mobile phone spying devices in Washington.
But this week it's a private Israeli company that's being accused of selling powerful phone-hacking software to repressive regimes.
Here are the details: The Washington Post reports that 37 smartphones owned by people connected with murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi were targeted by "military-grade spyware" created by an Israeli company.
The Post says these smartphones were on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens.
These countries' governments are known to be clients of the Israeli company, NSO Group, whose Pegasus spyware is ostensibly licensed to track terrorists and major criminals.
Many of the numbers on the list were in the Middle East, but the greatest number was in Mexico.
The targeted individuals include top military and political officials, as well as journalists and human rights activists.
The spyware can easily bypass strong passwords and encryption and can attack phones without any warning to users.
It can also read anything on a device that the user can, while also stealing photos, recordings, location records, communications, passwords, call logs and social media posts.
Some spyware companies use "zero-click" attacks, according to the Washington Post, which deliver spyware simply by sending a message to a user's phone.
Such messages produce no notification and phone users don't even need to touch their phones for infections to begin.