Israel is reportedly trying to get the country’s NSO Group – a developer of cyber security tools – removed from a US Commerce Department’s blacklist.
NSO Group was blacklisted by the U.S. government in November over accusations that allowed its software to be used in the hacking of American diplomats. And in December it was reported that NSO Group Pegasus spyware was used to track American embassy employees in East Africa. Specifically, 11 U.S. Embassy employees working in Uganda had their iPhones hacked by the program.
According to a report in Axios made by Barak Ravid, a U.S. official and the two Israeli officials said the Biden administration is considering the Israeli request. But the Biden administration has denied that it has any plans to do so.
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Ravid cited a “senior” Israeli official as saying, “We told the U.S. that they can’t destroy NSO and that several bad clients doesn’t mean the company’s products and capabilities are no longer needed.”
Meanwhile, last week Spain’s High Court called on the CEO of NSO Group to testify in a case on how its Pegasus software was used to spy on Spanish politicians. In May it was revealed that a large number of people in Spain were victims of the Pegasus spyware. In addition to NSO Group, Israeli cybersecurity firm Candiru’s software was also allegedly used.
Israeli Cybersecurity firm NSO Group develops ways to break through encryptions and security systems. Last July, it was revealed that NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware software aids in the violation of people’s human rights around the world and that the company has known all about this. Specifically, they were charged with helping governments hack the telephones of journalists.
The company’s activities were even felt in Israel itself. In January, a scandal erupted in the country when a report in Calcalist revealed that the Israel Police had hacked the phones of many Israeli citizens, including politicians, without first acquiring the proper court orders for wiretapping as required by law. They allegedly used the Pegasus spyware made by NSO Group, which is widely regarded as one of the most powerful cyber-surveillance tools on the market, enabling operators to practically take complete control of a target’s phone, download any data from it, and activate the device’s camera or microphone without the target’s knowledge.