back to article United Nations calls for moratorium on sale of surveillance tech like NSO Group's Pegasus

The United Nations has called for a moratorium on the sale of "life threatening" surveillance technology and singled out the NSO Group and Israel for criticism. The catalyst for that UN's action is the recent allegation that NSO Group's wares have been widely used beyond their intended purpose of national security, and instead …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "has little chance"

    More like zero chance.

    The UN is all nice and cuddly, but it has no teeth.

    Every government is sovereign, and if that government wants to use surveillance tools on its own population, then By God it will, moratorium be damned.

    The real issue is that, if there is a country somewhere that refuses to use said tools, it might become a haven for hardened criminals and, <gasp>, actual terrorists.

    What then ?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "has little chance"

      While cynicism is entirely justified, I think it is a good thing to have a moral, ethical and possibly legal framework written down somewhere.

      If nothing else it would provide standards to illustrate just how far past acceptable action some people/states will go.

      1. James12345

        Re: "has little chance"

        Unfortunately, you extremely naive to expect the UN to be either moral or ethical.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "has little chance"

      More to the point, the UN's "experts" are usually people no one in their fields ever heard of except in the capacity of their UN jobs. That's before you layer on the 3rd world corruption endemic to UN endeavors.

      1. James12345

        Re: "has little chance"

        The corruption is across the board.

  2. batfink Silver badge


    All you spies - stop spying immediately!

    There, that should do it...

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: Oi!

      You forgot to add: "That is an order!".

      Now we are safe again.

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Oi!

      And if it isn't enough, a stern letter should do the trick.

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Oi!

        "And if it isn't enough, a stern letter should do the trick."

        Where's Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells when you need them?

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Oi!

          Let's get tough. The time for talking is over. Call it extreme if you like, but I propose we hit them hard and hit them fast with a major -- and I mean major -- leaflet campaign, and while they’re reeling from that, we'll follow up with a whist drive, a car boot sale, some street theatre and possibly even some benefit concerts. OK? Now, if that's not enough, I'm sorry, it's time for the T-shirts.

    3. goodjudge

      Re: Oi!

      You forgot to say "please".

  3. Shalghar

    Sooooo who got a pot of gold for a rebrand ?

    Morale, laws and ethics are completely irrelevant if not adhered to. The UN are not the a sole overcompensated purveyor of irrelevant ramblings, see 2361/2020 from a similarly irrelevant council in the EUrocracry.

    So whatever might happen - if anything happens at all - is either a more discreet way of selling the spyware and malware (services) to interested customers of any kind as long as they pay up and shut up.

    There may be even more censorship coming down any kind of media or internet.

    Or NSO officially shuts down while a new enterprising software solutions company named nNSO (notNSO) or dnNSOh(definitely not NSO, honest) is invoked to care for the NSO customers that are suddenly lacking support.

    But of course, the heroic UN have spoken out and the world is a better place (TM) now.

    And if there are some more kashoggi incidents, those are purely irrelevant single causes that could not have been foreseen.

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Too late.

    Too late. The cat is out of the bag. Despite objections to the contrary I pretty much reckon that this app is the one present that ALL political leaders want under their tree this year.

  5. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Well, that should sort the problem, what with Israel's well-documented respect for the UN over many years.

  6. Mike Richards

    'Which sounds lovely but is likely impractical.'

    Governments might not be stopped, but there's no reason why we couldn't outlaw 'malware for hire' companies like NSO Group - or at least make it clear to their financial backers (hello Novalpina, based in London) that they might be involved in criminality and therefore liable to financial sanctions like other criminal enterprises.

    We could also consider banning the zero day industry operated by the likes of Zerodium where security flaws are withheld from developers and users and sold on for profit.

  7. Mahhn

    only way

    Sadly, the only way to truly avoid digital surveillance/data harvesting for abuse, it to not use the internet and avoid being logged (no medical help, no property, no public or registered transportation.) pretty much a cave man. And even then you will be a counted statistic.

    1. Shalghar

      Re: only way

      Not quite, you would only have to have trained (thats unheard of !!!) and paid (outrageous !!!) personnel to do the now automated or outright outsourced/killed off jobs or even (blasphemy !!!) burn some rainforests worth of silly red tape.

      Internet based processes and companies are not automagically better, only faster and in some parts less personnel intensive.

      Wherever that speed is not needed (if there is any increase at all that is not already eaten up by mutating procedures, consultants and other forms of ineffectiveness) the traditional 1950ies ways may very well still work.

      This might be comparatively work intensive but surely not down to caveman standard.

      Decades have seen a technocratic approach, all that could be automated was automated, all that could be connected to the internet was connected and actually all that can be migrated to the big insecure vapourware tends to be moved there by clouded minds.

      The question if the "modern" way is also the best or most efficient way is asked too rarely.

      1. WhereAmI?

        Re: only way

        Upvote for the last line.

  8. HildyJ Silver badge

    The cat's out of the bag

    NSO seems to have the best surveillance software, but it's not the only one. Once the first surveillance software was written (I'd guess an IBM mainframe search engine) the cat was out of the bag and, like every other technological innovation, it became bigger and better until this day and it will continue to do so.

    Also, like every other technological innovation, some people will use it for evil and not good. Unfortunately, there's no going back.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: IBM mainframe search engine)

      There was a lot of spiffy tech developed from HARVEST and TRACTOR.

      Somethimes you just have to take comfort in your executioner having a cutting-edge sword.

      1. James12345

        Re: IBM mainframe search engine)

        It probably was IBM who were first, around 30 years before HARVEST, and IBM will definitely have the most blood on their hands, even after all this time.

  9. NIck Hunn

    I suspect what annoys the UN experts most is that none of them were on the list of people being monitored. Someone should give them a copy of Cory Doctorow's "Attack Surface" to read, so they can start wondering which of their colleagues in the UN is already licensing the software.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Can they have a word with Apple while they're at it?

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