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Israeli spyware firm’s financial backer promises ‘transparency’ after WhatsApp hack

The UK private equity fund backing Israeli spyware firm NSO Group has claimed it will toughen up the governance of the company after it emerged NSO’s software was used to hack WhatsApp.

Novalpina Capital, which took a significant stake in NSO Group in February at a valuation of $1bn, said its aim was to ensure “public transparency” around the governance of NSO and will see that its technology is “limited only by legal requirements and legitimate commercial confidentiality constraints”.

NSO came under fire this week after it was discovered that the company’s Pegasus spyware was being used to spy on a human rights lawyer representing Saudi dissidents.

The group’s software can be installed on a target’s smartphone using a missed WhatsApp call. The spyware can then be used to read messages, access files and documents and eavesdrop via its cameras and microphones.

NSO has also faced criticism for selling its spyware to governments with questionable human rights records.

Novalpina said NSO’s spyware should not be used to undermine the privacy of individuals as defined by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“We are determined to do whatever is necessary to ensure that NSO technology is used for the purpose for which it is intended,” Novalpina co-founder Stephen Peel wrote in an open letter to the human rights campaigner.

Mr Peel added that he will ensure NSO’s spyware is “not abused in a manner that undermines other equally fundamental human rights.”

A UK-based lawyer involved in a lawsuit against NSO told The Telegraph that a series of early morning calls on WhatsaApp that started in March, and came from various locations, indicated someone may be attempting a hack.

“Our intention is to establish a new benchmark for transparency and respect for human rights in full compliance with the UN Guiding Principle,” said Mr Peel.

“The intended outcome is a significant enhancement of respect for human rights to be built into NSO’s policies and procedures and into the products sold under licence to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”

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