Bennett plans using NSO to rate individual virus exposure

Naftali Bennett

Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett claims that the Health Ministry is unable to keep track of coronavirus patients.

Cyberattack company NSO has developed a system for handling information about the probability that Israelis will be infected by the coronavirus. The system was developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense and the IDF. Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett says that the system will collect information about Israelis, update it in real time, and assign every Israeli an "infection rating" on a scale of 1 to 10.

The system is part of a national plan devised by Bennett for coping with the coronavirus. The plan, which was published today in a 30-page file, addresses escalation of the closure policy for the health and education systems, expansion of testing, etc.

The plan, which does not mention NSO by name, states, "The Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with the IDF and civilian companies, has established a central information system into which all of the information will be input. Every Israeli citizen will have an 'infection rating' from 1 to 10 describing the likelihood that that person is a coronavirus carrier." The plan also states, "The system is updated in real time. My rating could be 5.6 one day, and then jump to 9 because I visited a grocery store where two carriers visited in recent days."

In his plan, Bennett wrote, "When the virus first appeared, the Ministry of Health conducted a detailed epidemiological study of each patient, and later added the mobile telephone location of patients… At the same time, with the current dramatic daily increase in the number of people infected, in my opinion, the health system is unable to maintain this. The numbers are too high. This is a long and awkward manual process." With the automated location systems of the Israel Security Agency and the Ministry of Health, it is unclear on what these statements, which appear without any additional explanation, are based.

This system is the first civilian product of NSO, which develops cyberattack products for use by intelligence agencies and governments. The tool being used here is not a surveillance tool, as reported by the Bloomberg new agency, which revealed the system two weeks ago. According to Bennett's report, the system is a data analysis system that receives data from other systems, not a surveillance tool. Reports state that a dozen governments have already begun trials with the system.

"The system is ready for operation. Legal approval for the system's operation should be considered, with proper maintenance of privacy, for connecting it to the health system and feeding in all of the tests and results. At any given moment, we will summon for testing people with a high likelihood of infection. It's that simple," Bennett's document states.

NSO was founded in 2010 by Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie. Its leading product is the Pegasus program, which is classified as a security tool. According to the company, it is designed to help governments and intelligence organizations prevent terrorism. On the other hand, the company is controversial; the software has reportedly been used to spy on journalists and opponents of disreputable regimes.

No response was available from NSO.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 30, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
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