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Israel’s Pegasus spyware could be shut down or sold to US

December 14, 2021 at 2:37 pm

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

Israel’s military spyware firm, the NSO Group, is currently considering shutting down its controversial Pegasus operation and selling the entire company, reported news outlet Bloomberg.

This comes after a decision by the US to place the Israeli company on its trade blacklist, which has pushed it into debt estimated at $500 million, Anadolu News Agency reports.

The report claims NSO has been in talks with several investment firms and has brought in advisers from global investment bank, Moelis & Co. Two unnamed US funds have reportedly considered taking control of Pegasus in a deal that would pour $200 million into the unit and resell the service as a product aimed only at cyber defence.

The Pegasus spyware, developed by the Israeli NSO Group, was made infamous in July when the University of Toronto’s internet watchdog Citizen Lab exposed numerous governments’ misuse of the software through the hacking of around 50,000 phones and devices belonging to journalists, human rights activists and political critics worldwide.

Amongst those client governments were Gulf Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

READ: Israel’s spyware hacks phones of US officials

Moreover, Apple had filed a lawsuit against NSO and its parent company OSY Technologies last month, in an effort to stop the spyware company from targeting any Apple devices. In its complaint filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple said that NSO’s tools were used in “concerted efforts in 2021 to target and attack Apple customers.”

The company added that “US citizens have been under surveillance by NSO’s spyware on mobile devices that can and do cross international borders.”