The maker of powerful spy software allegedly used to hack the phones of innocent people says blaming the company is like “criticising a car manufacturer when a drunk driver crashes”.
NSO Group is facing international criticism, after reporters obtained a list of alleged potential targets for spyware, including activists, politicians and journalists.
Investigations have begun as the list, of 50,000 phone numbers, contained a small number of hacked phones.
Pegasus infects iPhones and Android devices, allowing operators to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones and cameras.
The Israeli company says its software is intended for use against criminals and terrorists and made available to only military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies from countries with good human-rights records.
But a consortium of news organisations, led by French media outlet Forbidden Stories, has published dozens of stories based around the list, including allegations French President Emmanuel Macron’s number was on it and may have been targeted.
NSO Group said it had been told the list had been hacked from its Cyprus servers
But a company spokesman told BBC News: “Firstly, we don’t have servers in Cyprus.
“And secondly, we don’t have any data of our customers in our possession.
“And more than that, the customers are not related to each other, as each customer is separate.
“So there should not be a list like this at all anywhere.”
And the number of potential targets did not reflect the way Pegasus worked.
“It’s an insane number,” the spokesman said.
“Our customers have an average of 100 targets a year.
“Since the beginning of the company, we didn’t have 50,000 targets total.”