Amazon Web Services has shut down cloud accounts linked to Israeli spying NSO Group following revelations that the Israeli firm's Pegasus software had been used to spy on journalists and government officials.
"When we learned of this activity, we acted quickly to shut down the relevant infrastructure and accounts," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.
According to an investigation by 17 media organizations published on Sunday, the Israeli NSO Group's spyware was used for surveillance of journalists, government officials and human rights activists. The targeted individuals included Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
It was reported that NSO Group's software was found utilizing Amazon Web Services' CloudFront infrastructure, "to deliver the earlier stages of their attacks" against targeted mobile devices.
From a list of more than 50,000 cellphone numbers obtained by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and multiple media outlets, journalists were able to identify more than 1,000 individuals in 50 countries who were allegedly selected by the Israeli company for potential surveillance.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden warned in the wake of revelations that, “If you don’t do anything to stop the sale of this technology, it’s not just going to be 50,000 targets. It’s going to be 50 million targets, and it’s going to happen much more quickly than any of us expect.”
Snowden, who blew the whistle on the secret mass spying programs of the US National Security Agency in 2013, described for-profit malware developers as “an industry that should not exist”.
According to the revelations made by outlets and activist groups, the Pegasus software infects individuals’ phones by sending them text messages that tempt them to click on an attached link. If the target clicks on the link, the company gains full control over the phone, including its contents and history, and the ability to activate its microphone and camera.
Facebook, in 2019, sued the NSO Group amid allegations that the Israeli firm's technology was used to spy on WhatsApp users.
Amazon had previously been quiet on NSO's use of its infrastructure. The US tech giant did not respond to media requests regarding the reports of NSO using Amazon infrastructure to distribute malware in May 2020.
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