NSO Group
NSO GroupREUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

The Finnish foreign ministry said on Friday it had detected Pegasus, the spyware tool developed by Israeli-based NSO Group, in several phones used by its diplomats abroad, Reuters reports.

"It is a highly advanced malware that has been brought into an Apple or Android phone without the user noticing or having to take any action," a Finnish foreign ministry statement said.

A ministry spokesperson said it would not comment further on the discovery of Pegasus in some of its diplomats' phones.

An investigation into the matter was carried out over the past several months, the ministry said.

The Finnish announcement followed a report in The New York Times which said that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to ensure that Saudi Arabia would be able to use the Pegasus software, around the time that the Abraham Accords were signed with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to the Times, the Gulf states, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, received a license to use the Pegasus program. One month after the Abraham Accords were signed, Saudi Arabia's license expired - and the Defense Ministry refused to extend it, due to reports of human rights violations by Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, called then-Prime Minister Netanyahu, asking that he renew the license. At the same time, Bin Salman allowed Israeli planes to use Saudi Arabian airspace on their way to other Gulf states.

The US Commerce Department recently blacklisted NSO Group, prohibiting it from using American technology in its operations.

Apple sued the Israeli firm in late November, seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using Apple software, services, or devices.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)