According to several sources, including Financial Times and Reuters, citing persons familiar with the deal, US investment firm Integrity Partners is in talks to acquire Israeli cybersecurity firm NSO Group.
The sources said, the spyware firm is likely worth between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. Integrity Partners will invest $300 million in NSO.
“Financial Times” reports that Integrity Partners which is headed by former US troops would use their contacts to attempt to have NSO removed from the US Department of Commerce’s blacklist.
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The US Department of Commerce blacklisted NSO last November for allegedly using its flagship Pegasus spyware for “transnational repression” and acting against US national security interests. NSO was already embroiled in controversy following an investigation last summer by Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, which was published in the “Washington Post,” “The Guardian,” and other newspapers, alleging that governments used Pegasus to hack into the mobile phones of human rights activists, journalists, and political opponents, as well as foreign governments.
According to a source close to NSO, several suitors expressed interest in acquiring the company, but the conversations with Integrity Partners were the most advanced.
Pegasus is only provided to foreign governments with the consent of Israel’s Ministry of Defense and on the proviso that the spyware is used exclusively for counter-terrorism purposes. Surprisingly, it was disclosed earlier this month that Israel Police investigations employ Pegasus to follow Israeli suspects.
NSO is also facing a significant lawsuit in the United States from Apple for allegedly hacking its phones.
Global outrage about Pegasus spyware’s ability to breach a phone without the user clicking on a link has driven down NSO’s price.
In February 2019, US private equity firm Francisco Partners sold NSO to European fund Novalpina Capital for an estimated $1 billion.