Amazon Web Services has announced that it is banning NSO group from its services, the parent company responsible for the Pegasus spyware program.
The move comes after a report found that the software was used to spy human rights activists and journalists. The report was released by Amnesty International and it went on a top note that the Pegasus app used services like AWS and Amazon CloudFront to route data from targeted phones.
Amnesty also added that it made formal contact with Amazon about the matter and it seems like the company has responded by banning Pegasus parent company from its services. Despite this, it is also emerging that NSO may have used more services than AWS. The report by Amnesty International has linked the spy software to other companies including DigitalOcean and Linode.
The report also noted that it seems NSO favored data centers in Europe and the US, especially those that are run by US companies. Amnesty revealed that NSO would deploy its Pegasus spyware with the help of malicious domains and subdomains, something that allowed it to exploit security weaknesses in apps like iMessage and others.
The app would then collect data from the phone and there were even incidents where it would activate the camera and the microphone for added surveillance. NSO, however, sought to clarify the matter arguing that the spyware is only used to monitor terrorists and cybercriminals. But the Amnesty report and investigations from 17 other outlets found that the deployment of this software was done in a much broader sense.
The human rights body notes that while governments used spyware to target terrorists, there were also numerous cases where it was used to target political opponents, activists, dissidents, and even journalists. There were even mentions of high-profile targets in this list. The Amnesty report noted that Pegasus was used to target the phones of journalists in global publications including the New York Times and the Associated Press.
But the scarier finding by Amnesty was the fact that Pegasus was used to target two women who were close to Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi-American journalist was murdered in cold blood inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey in a crime that has been linked to the Saudi crown prince. Khashoggi was a firm critic of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and is believed to have died as a result.
Although the Amnesty Report does not link NSO directly to the murder of Khashoggi, it may likely have been indirectly involved. Despite this, the NSO has come out strongly against the reporting by Amnesty. The company has said the report is “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.”
But that is inconsequential now. It is clear that AWS has taken action against NSO and it is likely that more companies associated with NSO and Pegasus will do the same. It’s also a clear indication of the power companies like Amazon yield with their commercial services.