Israel blocked Ukraine from using Pegasus Spyware fearing it might upset Russia

The Israeli government has blocked Ukraine from acquiring the Pegasus spyware system out of fear of upsetting Russia. Israel feared that selling the cyberweapon to adversaries of Russia would damage Israel’s relationship with the Kremlin, they said. Pegasus is spyware developed by the Israeli cyber-arms company NSO Group that can be covertly installed on mobile phones running most versions of iOS and Android. Pegasus is a so-called zero-click hacking tool, which means it can stealthily and remotely extract everything from a target’s mobile phone, including photos, contacts, messages, and video recordings, without the user having to click on a phishing link to give Pegasus remote access. It can also turn the mobile phone into a tracking and secret recording device, allowing the phone to spy on its owner.

Israel Fears of Russia’s reaction

Both Ukraine and Estonia had hoped to buy Pegasus to gain access to Russian phones, presumably as part of intelligence operations targeting their increasingly menacing neighbor in the years before Russia carried out its invasion of Ukraine.

Israel has so far refrained from joining other nations in imposing sanctions against Russia over its attack on Ukraine. Israel’s relationship with Russia has come under close scrutiny since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began several weeks ago, and Ukrainian officials have publicly called out Israel’s government for offering only limited support to Ukraine’s embattled government and bowing to Russian pressure.  According to the sources, “Israel feared that granting Ukraine the ability to target Russia-based mobile phone numbers through Pegasus would be viewed as an act of aggression against Russian intelligence services”, said the Guardian.