NEW YORK CITY, RAW – Amazon.com Inc’s cloud service, Amazon Web Services, has shut down infrastructure and accounts linked to Israeli surveillance vendor NSO Group, US media group Vice reports.
NSO Group’s spyware was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, government officials and human rights activists around the world, according to an investigation by 17 media organisations published on Sunday.
NSO denied the report and said its product was intended only for use by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism and crime.
“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.
Amazon did not immediately clarify if the accounts were related to NSO Group.
Israel’s Defence Ministry said on Monday that the export of cyber products, like spyware sold by NSO Group, was for lawful use and with the sole purpose of fighting crime and countering terrorism.
NSO has rejected what it called “the false allegations” raised by the media reports.
“Our technologies are being used every day to break up pedophilia rings, sex and drug-trafficking rings, locate missing and kidnapped children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings and protect airspace against disruptive penetration by dangerous drones,” the company said.
The Defence Ministry said in its own statement that Israel approves the export of cyber products “exclusively to governmental entities, for lawful use, and only for the purpose of preventing and investigating crime and counter terrorism”.
“In cases where exported items are used in violation of export licences or end use certificates, appropriate measures are taken,” the ministry said, without elaborating.
Earlier in the day, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, head of the liberal Meretz party and a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision-making security cabinet, told reporters he would meet Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday to discuss the exports by NSO Group.
Speaking during a televised Meretz faction meeting, parliamentarian Mossi Raz called on the party to demand that Israel halt NSO exports, which he likened to “exporting weaponry, which is forbidden to non-democratic countries”.
But another Meretz lawmaker, former Israeli military deputy chief Yair Golan, was more circumspect, saying the reporting on NSO “looks tendentious, with a commercial motivation” and adding: “It is not just NSO that does such things.”