NSO Group

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Group.png NSO Group  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Founder• Niv Carmi
• Omri Lavie
• Shalev Hulio
InterestsUnit 8200
Israeli technology firm focused on cyber intelligence.

NSO Group Technologies is an Israeli technology firm focused on cyber intelligence. It was founded in 2010 by Niv Carmi, Omri Lavie, and Shalev Hulio.[1][2][3] It is reported to employ around 500 people and is based in Herzliya near Tel Aviv.

Annual revenues were said to be around $40 million in 2013 and $150 million in 2015.[4] In June 2017, the company was put for sale for $1 billion by its owner Francisco Partners Management,[5] and it was sold to its own management in 2019.[6]

According to the company, it provides "authorised governments with technology that helps them combat terror and crime". Electronic Frontier Foundation and Citizen Lab, a digital rights group and a human rights group respectively, claimed, and proved with the help of Lookout Security, that software created by NSO Group was used in targeted attacks against human rights activists and journalists in several countries.[7]

"Cyber arms dealer"

Israel's NSO Group has been referred to in the past as a "cyber arms dealer" and is part-owned by the London-based private equity firm Novalpina Capital, which acquired a stake in February 2019.

NSO's flagship software, Pegasus, has the ability to collect intimate data from a target device, including capturing data through the microphone and camera, and gathering location data.

Hacking WhatsApp

In response to a BBC report that NSO Group had facilitated the hacking of WhatsApp, the group said:

"NSO's technology is licensed to authorised government agencies for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror.
"The company does not operate the system, and after a rigorous licensing and vetting process, intelligence and law enforcement determine how to use the technology to support their public safety missions. We investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system.
"Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation."

Amnesty International

Amnesty International - which said it had been targeted by tools created by the NSO Group in the past - said this attack was one human rights groups had long feared was possible.

"They're able to infect your phone without you actually taking an action," said Danna Ingleton, deputy programme director for Amnesty Tech. She said there was mounting evidence that the tools were being used by regimes to keep prominent activists and journalists under surveillance.

"There needs to be some accountability for this, it can't just continue to be a wild west, secretive industry."

On Tuesday 14 May 2019, a Tel Aviv court will hear a petition led by Amnesty International that calls for Israel's Ministry of Defence to revoke the NSO Group's licence to export its products.[8]

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