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Israel reduces cyber technologies sales amid NSO scandal

November 27, 2021 at 12:48 pm

This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel’s NSO Group which features ‘Pegasus’ spyware, on display in Paris on July 21, 2021 [JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images]

Amid global scandals regarding Israel’s spyware firm, the NSO Group, the Israeli Ministry of Defence has reduced the number of countries to which Israeli companies can sell cyber technologies, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.

In a report about November updates, the Israeli Ministry of Defence said that it reduced the number of countries to 37, down from 102, the Israeli Calcalist Business News daily said.

According to the report, the Israeli Ministry of Defence dropped Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Morocco, the UAE and others. The report stated that the countries dropped from the list of clients were involved in human rights abuses using NSO’s products.

Saudi Arabia, for example, allegedly used NSO’s Pegasus spyware to monitor The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

However, The Times of Israel reported that India was also accused of using NSO technology on journalists, opposition politicians and activists, and remains on the updated list.

NSO insists its product is only meant to assist countries in fighting crime and terrorism, but the new rules, according to the report, are expected to deal a serious blow to Israel’s cyber technology industry.

READ: Israel reduces cyber technologies sales amid NSO scandal

The US Department of Commerce has recently announced that it was blacklisting NSO, restricting the firm’s ties with US companies over allegations that it: “Enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression.”

On Tuesday, Apple sued the NSO Group for targeting the users of its devices, urging that the firm at the centre of the Pegasus surveillance scandal needs to be held accountable.

“To prevent further abuse and harm to its users, Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services, or devices,” Apple said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

In 2019, Facebook sued the Israeli company for allegedly targeting users of its WhatsApp messaging app.

Earlier this month, a US Court of Appeals rejected a motion by NSO Group to throw out Facebook’s suit against it.

Earlier this week, The Times of Israel reported that Moody’s credit rating agency published figures indicating that the NSO Group is at risk of defaulting on a $500 million debt, amid upcoming cash flow issues following the US blacklisting.