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Chairman of Israeli spyware firm NSO says he has stepped down

An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Asher Levy said, on Tuesday, he had quit as Chairman of Israeli spyware firm, NSO Group, but denied that his departure was linked to lawsuits or media coverage of the international furore that has erupted over the company's Pegasus hacking software, Reuters reports.

Levy told Reuters he had left the surveillance firm at the end of 2021 in line with plans made before a series of setbacks the company has suffered.

In November, in a big blow to the firm's export prospects, the US Commerce Department blacklisted NSO, saying it sold spyware to foreign governments which then used the equipment to target government officials, journalists and others.

Apple has also sued NSO, saying it had violated US laws by breaking into the software installed on iPhones.

NSO has additionally faced either legal action or criticism from Microsoft Corp, Facebook parent, Meta Platforms Inc, Google parent, Alphabet Inc and Cisco Systems Inc.

READ: Israeli Minister supports State's police over alleged use of Pegasus to spy on citizens

Last week, Israel's Attorney General ordered an investigation into police surveillance tactics amid reports that Pegasus had been improperly used domestically.

Levy took over as Chairman in April 2020 as an appointee of UK-based private equity firm, Novalpina Capital, which had bought NSO in 2019. Berkeley Research Group (BRG) took over management of Novalpina, and effectively of NSO, in July 2021.

"As soon as BRG joined the company, I called them and I said, 'I suggest that you nominate somebody on your behalf, and I would like to finish my term with the company'," Levy said. "I did what I think is normal practice in this type of situation."

The new Chairman of NSO is Finbarr O'Connor, the Managing Director of BRG Asset Management, NSO said.

Levy said he had been involved with NSO at a "lower level" from August to December 2021, adding that he remained "full of appreciation to NSO, the life-saving technology it develops … and the unprecedented ethical policies the company has adopted".

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