The Dutch security service AIVD is using controversial hacking software developed by Israeli company NSO Group, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday, quoting four confidential sources.
The paper said the claims are the first tangible link between the Netherlands and NSO Group, a commercial company which produces the Pegasus phone hacking software. The software was used in the investigation into gangland boss Ridouan Taghi, the sources said.
Pegasus is used by governments worldwide to monitor opposition leaders, activists and journalists, according to research by Canadian group CitizenLab.
The Volkskrant said the AIVD used the software to hack Taghi’s phone following the murder of lawyer Derk Wiersum, after the agency was brought in by the then justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus. Taghi was arrested three months after the murder in Dubai.
Neither the AIVD or NSO Group would comment on the claims, the paper said.
NSO Group was placed on a US sanctions list at the end of last year because the phone hacking tool was being used to ‘maliciously target’ officials and others.
Once installed on a phone, Pegasus can harvest most information and files, including text messages, address books, call history, calendars, emails and internet browsing histories.
The European parliament is currently investigating whether the use of Pegasus and other espionage software is in violation of European fundamental rights.
MEP Sophie in ’t Veld, the rapporteur for that investigation, told the paper use of the software by the Dutch raises a lot of questions.
‘It is incredibly invasive and we have seen it being used for political purposes in several countries – Poland, Greece, Hungary and Spain,’ she said. ‘Apart from the question of whether using the software is legitimate, it is also important what the conditions attached to its use are.’
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