In early June 2018, an Amnesty International staff member received a suspicious WhatsApp message in Arabic. The text contained details about an alleged protest outside the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C., followed by a link to a website. Investigations by Amnesty International’s technology team revealed that clicking the link would have, according to prior knowledge, installed “Pegasus”, a sophisticated surveillance tool developed by the Israel-based company NSO Group.
Like many other Israeli startups in the security field, NSO was founded in 2010 by three veterans of the army’s premier signals intelligence unit, 8200: Niv Carmi, Omri Lavie and Shalev Hulio. They started work on Pegasus, which remains NSO’s only product, immediately after founding the company.