Israeli-based spyware company NSO Group pulled the plug on its contract with the United Arab Emirates after Dubai’s ruler misused the firm’s Pegasus software to spy on his ex-wife and those around her, Reuters reported.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s vice president and prime minister, ordered the hacking of phones belonging to Princess Haya bint Hussein of Jordan, her lawyers and security team, according to a ruling by England’s High Court made public on Wednesday.
The hacking occurred in 2020 as part of a high-profile custody battle over the couple’s two children.
Al Maktoum denied the allegations, saying the court’s conclusions were based on an incomplete set of facts.
“I have always denied the allegations made against me and I continue to do so,” he said in a statement, according to Reuters.
NSO Group reacted swiftly to stop the misuse of its software when it learned of it in early August of last year, according to the report. It immediately sent a warning to the princess through a high-profile British lawyer.
“Within two hours, the company shut down the customer’s system and then prevented any other client from being able to use Pegasus to target British numbers, a measure still in place today,” a source told Reuters.
NSO Group came under fire in July for allegations its government clients widely misused its Pegasus spyware against politicians, journalists and critics of repressive regimes.
The spyware’s intended purpose is to track criminals and terrorists, according to the company. The software can be used to remotely access emails, passwords, contact lists, and even a smartphone’s camera, microphone and tracking system, transforming the phone into a surveillance device, according to NSO marketing materials.