(Washington D.C., April 5, 2022) – Earlier today, Front Line Defenders and Citizen Lab published a new report documenting how two NSO Group operators—likely linked to the Jordanian government—used NSO Group's Pegasus spyware to hack the devices of Jordanian human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists between August 2019 and December 2021.
"Today's report reaffirms that NSO Group and its malicious Pegasus spyware are the go-to hacking technology for repressive governments like Jordan wishing to spy on their citizens and to target human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). "It's despicable that the Jordanian monarchy is spending the country's desperately needed resources to buy Israeli spying tools for use against Jordanian human rights activists and journalists."
The U.S. Department of Commerce added NSO Group to its Entity List on November 4, 2021 for engaging in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. In a press release explaining its decision, the Commerce Department stated that NSO Group, an Israeli company, was added to the Entity List based on evidence that it "developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers."
"It is especially troubling that despite this report and many others like it showing the harmful abuses of Pegasus spyware and the little concern that its company NSO Group has shown for these abuses, a handful of Washington firms have lined up to lobby on behalf of NSO Group," said Whitson.
NSO operators hacked one target's iPhone on December 5, 2021, even though Apple had already sued NSO Group and notified potential targets of the company's spyware in November. Earlier reporting from Front Line Defenders showed that the phone of Hala Ahed Deeb, a prominent Jordanian lawyer and woman human rights defender, was also infected with Pegasus spyware.
"The Commerce Department blacklisted NSO Group for exactly these types of abuses and it is profoundly disturbing that U.S. firms would still agree to lobby on its behalf," added Whiston.