2020-02-07 08:49:33 UTC
market its surveillance technologies at a secretive trade fair visited by
repressive regimes, the Guardian can reveal.
The government will host the NSO Group, which sells technology that has
allegedly been used by autocratic regimes to spy on the private messages of
journalists and human rights activists, at the closed Security and Policing
trade fair in Hampshire next month.
The NSO Group is due to be an exhibitor at the three-day fair, where police
and security officials from abroad can browse commercial stalls selling
surveillance and crowd-control equipment.
Around 60 foreign delegations are typically hosted by the British government
to the fair. In the last four years they have included countries whose human
rights records have been criticised such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE,
Oman, Qatar and Hong Kong. The identities of this year’s delegations are
not known as they areusually announced on the opening day of the fair
NSO has faced allegations that its technology is used to target human rights
activists and reporters around the world. At least three UK residents are
among those who are alleged to have been targeted using spyware sold by NSO.
Among them is a prominent London-based satirist who is suing Saudi Arabia in
the UK courts alleging that the Riyadh regime targeted him using malware
developed by the firm.
The company is being sued in the US by WhatsApp, the popular messaging app,
which has alleged that 1,400 of its users were hacked
firm-accusing-it-of-hacking-activists-phones)over a two-week period last
year. NSO has denied the allegation.
The company’s signature spyware has also allegedly been used to target
journalists, including a recently revealed case involving a reporter for the
New York Times who is alleged to have been targeted by Saudi Arabia using NSO
technology. NSO has denied the allegation.
Last week Reuters reported that the FBI was examining whether NSO technology
was used against Americans. The firm said it was not aware of any inquiry.
The annual trade fair is organised by theHome Office
(https://www.theguardian.com/politics/home-office)and the Department for
International Trade. The NSO Group has attended previously.
The general public have been barred from the fairs. Whitehall memos show that
the government has a strict criteria for selecting who attends and exhibits.
Last yearLloyd Russell-Moyle
Labour MP who was sitting on the parliamentary committee examining arms
exports, was denied entry.
The Home Officebills the fair (https://www.securityandpolicing.co.uk/)as
“THE official government global security event, offering a world-class
opportunity” to network with government officials and buy technology from
More than 300 firms, mainly from the UK, are due to exhibit their products at
this year’s fair, which will open on 3 March at the Farnborough airport
Brochures from previous years
dictatorships-at-the-uks-secret-security-trade-fair)show how firms were
seeking to sell equipment for many kinds of surveillance, from software that
“intercepts” national phone and internet systems to traditional
“bugs” that can be attached to cars or hidden in walls. Some exhibitors
are promising “immersive experiences” to help sell their products.
Ministers are due to give keynote addresses at the fair, which is also
attended by senior government officials.
In itspromotional material for the fair
group/), the NSO Group calls itself a “global leader in the world of
cyber-intelligence, data acquisition and analysis”. It says it sells its
technology to selected intelligence agencies, militaries and law enforcement
organisations around the world to fight crime and terrorism.
It says it is “committed to the proper use of its technology to help
governments strengthen public safety and protect against major security
There are three cases of NSO technology allegedly being used to target
British residents. They include Ghanem Almasarir,a satirist known for mocking
the Saudi royal family
allegations-ghanem-almasarir), Faustin Rukundo, a British citizen who is a
member of a Rwandan opposition group and lives in exile, and a lawyer who is
involved in a civil case against the Israeli surveillance company. NSO has
said its technology is only intended to be used to fight crime and terrorism.
Martyn Day, a lawyer representing Almasarir, said: “Unless the government
is prepared to take a stand and make it clear that it is inappropriate for
such software to be sold to oppressive regimes then we are nothing short of
colluding with those very regimes in their oppression of dissidents.
A Home Office spokesperson said in a statement: “The government will do all
it can to help keep British people and British interests safe in the UK and