Amazon Web Services, the hosting and internet services arm of the Amazon group, banned the NSO Group, owner of the spyware known as “Pegasus”, used by government entities to monitor political dissidents and activists through their services of security and intelligence.

Pegasus is one of the numerous software created by the NSO Group, and has been implicated in several cases where the use of extreme violence was identified, giving the company the public image of supporting dictatorships and governments of extreme social repression.

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Image shows the logo of Amazon Web Services, which banned the NSO Group for using Pegasus spyware
AWS has terminated accounts and services linked to the NSO Group due to the use of Pegasus spyware after an Amnesty International report revealed cases of privacy violations against journalists. Image: DeepPixel/Shutterstock

The ban by AWS came after a report released by Amnesty International note that the group installs Pegasus through malicious sub-domains, taking advantage of security holes in services such as iMessage, WhatsApp and others. Once installed, the program collects information from the infected device and can even activate, without the owner's knowledge, its camera for surveillance purposes.

According to the description of the software by the NSO Group itself, Pegasus is a tool for surveillance cyberterrorists and criminals. However, an Amnesty International report — which also cites an earlier survey done in 2020 — shows that the group sells it to governments that promote the use of Pegasus to persecute political opponents and journalists.

One of the most prominent cases involving Pegasus was the murder of Saudi journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018. He, who was a columnist for the Washington Post and editor-in-chief of the Al-Arab News Channel, had been admitted to the embassy of the Saudi Arabia in Istanbul in order to adjust bureaucracies related to her wedding, which would be a few months away. He never left the place.

Subsequent investigations into the consulate building found that Khashoggi had been tortured and killed on the spot, and chemistry experts had tried to eliminate the evidence.

International authorities later concluded that the activist's death had been ordered by Mohammed bin Salman, Prince Regent of Saudi Arabia, who arrived in Khashoggi after infecting the cell phone of a colleague of his who produced a short documentary film critical of the regime with Pegasus. parents.

Based on the data collected, Saudi agents were able to determine the journalist's dissent, as well as where he was going. The Saudi Arabian government is one of the NSO Group's contractors, and the infection that led to Khashoggi's death was traced back to the computers “of an operator linked to the Saudi government and security services,” according to Citizen Lab forensic analysis.

Amazon Web Services was not the only service used by the NSO Group: according to the Amnesty International report, the company favored US companies with servers in Europe, and its hosting links were traced to companies such as DigitalOcean and Linode. “When we discovered these activities, we acted quickly to shut down the infrastructure and all relevant accounts,” an AWS spokesperson told The Verge.

In recent cases, Pegasus was implicated in attacks targeting 37 smartphones owned by members of vehicles such as the New York Times and Associated Press, among others. The NSO Group denies all the charges, calling them "unsupported theories full of erroneous assumptions."

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