NSO Overview Updated September 1, 2022

NSO Group, maker of Pegasus spyware for iPhone and Android

See All Stories

37 'NSO' stories

July 2020 - August 2022

NSO Group

NSO Group makes spyware called Pegasus, which is sold to government and law enforcement agencies. The company purchases so-called zero-day vulnerabilities (ones that are unknown to Apple) from hackers, and its software is said to be capable of mounting zero-click exploits – where no user interaction is required by the target.

In particular, it’s reported that simply receiving a particular iMessage – without opening it or interacting with it in any way – can allow an iPhone to be compromised, with personal data exposed.

NSO sells Pegasus only to governments, but its customers include countries with extremely poor human rights records – with political opponents and others targeted. A report by Amnesty International that said that Pegasus was being used to mount zero-click attacks against human rights activists and other innocent targets.

An explosive report from Amnesty International interpreted device logs to reveal the scope of targeted malware attacks in active use targeting Android and iPhone devices, since July 2014 and as recently as July 2021. Exploited devices can secretly transmit messages and photos stored on the phone, as well as record phone calls and secretly record from the microphone. The attack is sold by Israeli firm NSO Group as ‘Pegasus’.

Whilst the company claims to only sell the spyware software for legit counterterrorism purposes, the report indicates it has actually been used to target human rights activists, lawyers and journalists around the world (as many have long suspected).

In July 2021, Apple issued an iOS security fix that appears to match the exploit reportedly used by NSO, though security researchers say that Apple needs to do more.

NSO initially made contradictory statements, first saying that it had no way to monitor how its software was used, and subsequently denying that it was used against the targets described in Amnesty’s report. It then said it would issue no further statements, and would not be answering any questions from the media.

The US government banned the import and use of Pegasus, depriving the company of its most lucrative customer base: US law enforcement agencies. Apple added to the pressure, suing the company, and alerting owners of infected iPhones. That put the company under extreme financial pressure, which may see it disappear – or may just make things worse.

For those most at risk – such as diplomats, politicians, government opponents, and activists – Apple has made available iPhone Lockdown Mode, which disables the most common attack paths.

NSO Stories August 26

iPhone Lockdown Mode is an extreme form of security designed to protect people who might find themselves targets of state-sponsored spyware, like Pegasus. However, a privacy activist says it also makes it easy for a website to detect when someone is using it – and has demonstrated this.

So what is designed to be protection against rogue governments could actually end up helping them identify people who may be of interest …

expand full story

NSO Stories August 22

Spyware company NSO, whose Pegasus app can be used to give attackers almost full remote access to an iPhone, has announced that it is downsizing, and losing its CEO.

Bizarrely, the company argues that this is in order to prepare for growth …

expand full story

NSO Stories July 26

Congress is set to vote on The Intelligence Authorization Act, intended to further punish spyware makers like NSO. It follows evidence that the company’s Pegasus spyware was used to hack iPhones used by American diplomats.

The Commerce Department had already named NSO as a threat to US national security, and banned the import and use of Pegasus, but the bill would take things further …

expand full story

NSO Stories July 18

The latest Pegasus iPhone hack to come to light targeted more than 30 pro-democracy protestors. Apple detected that their phones had been infected by NSO’s spyware, and alerted them.

Thailand has been the subject of multiple military coups over the years, the most recent of which was in 2014, with an army-backed leader still in power today after elections widely believed to have been fraudulent …

expand full story

NSO Stories June 22

NSO Pegasus spyware has been used by at least five EU countries, admits the company. The admission was made as part of a European investigation into the impact of Pegasus, with an interim report now published.

It’s likely that the true number is higher, with the company promising to provide a ‘more concrete number’ …

expand full story

NSO Stories June 1

The financial problems of iPhone spyware maker NSO were so bad by the end of last year that it struggled to make payroll – after the company failed to make a single sale over a period of several months.

The company, which sells software to remotely carry out zero-click hacks of both iPhones and Android smartphones, has been in deep trouble ever since it was blacklisted by the US government. However, its plan to overcome its woes could make Pegasus an even nastier threat …

expand full story

NSO Stories May 2

The Spanish prime minister’s iPhone was infected by NSO’s Pegasus spyware, says the government. Defense Minister Margarita Robles’ phone was also hit. This is just the latest in a slew of high-profile Pegasus attacks revealed within the last few weeks.

While it is foreign governments who would most want to target phones belonging to most prime ministers, there’s another obvious suspect in the case of Spain …

expand full story

NSO Stories April 18

NSO spyware Pegasus targeted US iPhones indirectly, despite the company forbidding customers from infecting phones with American SIMs. Devices belonging to Catalan politicians and others were also infected, with the Spanish government suspected to be responsible.

Additionally, it was discovered that a device connected to the network at 10 Downing Street – the office of British prime minister Boris Johnson – was also infected …

expand full story

NSO Stories April 11

It’s today been reported that Pegasus spyware hacked iPhones belonging to senior European Union officials, including that of the European Justice Commissioner.

NSO denies that its spyware was used, though the company’s past contradictory statements don’t lend the denial too much credibility …

expand full story

NSO Stories April 5

It’s been revealed that NSO’s Pegasus hacked the iPhone of an award-winning journalist, just weeks after Apple sought an injunction that would bar the company from targeting iPhone users.

NSO’s Pegasus software is so dangerous for two reasons. First, it gives access to almost all the data on the phone, including messages, photos, and location. Second, it works via a zero-click approach …

expand full story

NSO Stories March 3

Earlier this year, a report by the New York Times revealed that a special US version of Pegasus smartphone spyware was created by NSO and purchased by the FBI. Now, two Republican lawmakers are pressing Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation about it.

expand full story

NSO Stories January 28

A special US version of Pegasus smartphone spyware was created by NSO, and purchased by the FBI, a new report reveals today. The Drug Enforcement Agency, Secret Service, and the US military also held discussions with the Israeli spyware company.

Israel had always insisted that NSO make Pegasus incapable of being used on phones registered to US numbers in order to avoid angering a powerful ally, but an exception was granted…

expand full story

NSO Stories January 18

It’s being reported today that Israel police are using NSO’s Pegasus spyware on the country’s own citizens, including opponents of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. NSO had previously claimed that Pegasus would not be used within Israel.

The phone hacks are said to have been carried out without warrants and without any judicial oversight.

expand full story

NSO Stories January 13

Another suspected NSO phone hack has come to light, this of journalists and activists in El Salvador. Most of the journalists were working for an online news service that has been reporting extensively on alleged government corruption.

Two journalists contacted Citizen Lab after suspecting that their phones had been compromised, and an investigation confirmed their suspicions, and found that they weren’t the only ones …

expand full story

NSO Stories January 7

NCSC tips on how to protect yourself from cyber attacks

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) has warned of the risks of smartphones and other devices being compromised by surveillance tools, and tweeted a link to NCSC tips on how to protect yourself from cyber attacks …

NSO Stories December 22, 2021

We learned earlier this month that NSO’s Pegasus spyware was used to hack US State Department iPhones in Uganda, with no clue at the time who the attacker was.

A new report strongly suggests that the Ugandan government was behind the attacks, as the country – which has an appalling human rights record – is now known to have purchased the spyware. It also appears that this was, indirectly, the tipping point that led to NSO’s downfall…

expand full story

NSO Stories December 15, 2021

Pegasus spyware maker NSO Group is reportedly running out of cash following actions by both the US government and Apple. This has led the company to explore options to put itself up for sale.

Two US funds have expressed an interest, claiming that they would change the company’s mission from offensive to defensive, though skepticism has been expressed about this …

expand full story

NSO Stories December 3, 2021

Apple has reportedly informed some US State Department employees that their iPhones were the target of a sophisticated hacking tool created by the NSO Group. Apple recently sued the organization responsible for the Pegasus spyware created to compromise the security of iOS and Android.

expand full story

NSO Stories November 26, 2021

As part of hitting back at spyware company NSO, Apple alerted a Polish prosecutor that her iPhone appears to have been compromised by Pegasus. This also gives us our first look at the text of Apple’s security alerts.

Although Poland has not admitted purchasing and using the spyware, there is significant evidence that it has done so …

expand full story

NSO Stories November 24, 2021

Journalists, lawyers, politicians, and human rights activists have all been targeted by NSO’s Pegasus software, and Apple has now said that it will send security alerts to customers whose devices may be been compromised. It has already done so for at least five Thai activists and researchers.

It follows Apple’s announcement yesterday that it is suing NSO for attacking iOS users …

expand full story

NSO Stories November 23, 2021

Apple on Tuesday announced that it has filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, which is known for developing the advanced spyware “Pegasus” to attack and surveil users of iOS and Android devices. The company claims that it is suing the creators of the spyware to “prevent further abuse and harm to its users.”

expand full story

NSO Stories November 3, 2021

The NSO group, whose Pegasus spyware is used to hack iPhones and Android smartphones, has been officially named by the US government as a threat to national security.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has added the Israeli company to the Entity List, which bans the company’s products from being imported, exported or passed from one organization to another within the US.

expand full story

NSO Stories October 25, 2021

A New York Times journalist covering the Middle East has described the experience of his iPhone being hacked, and the security precautions he now takes as a result.

Ben Hubbard says there were four attempts to hack his iPhone, and that two of them succeeded, with all the signs pointing to the use of NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

expand full story

NSO Stories September 8, 2021

The German government has reportedly admitted to buying Pegasus spyware, despite the fact that using some of the functionality would break privacy laws in the country. Privacy is a particularly hot-button issue in the country, given the country’s history.

Sources cited in the report say that the version purchased from NSO had certain features disabled so that its use would be lawful in the country …

expand full story

Powered by WordPress VIP