Divine Horse or Destructive Spyware?
NSO’s flagship product is Pegasus, a program that can turn on a phone’s microphone and camera, crawl through emails and messages and collect location data. It specifically advertises its products to Middle Eastern and western intelligence agencies and says Pegasus is intended for governments to fight terrorism and crime. It was recently valued at $1bn in a leveraged buyout that involved the UK private equity fund Novalpina Capital.
Speculation around NSO
The group was reportedly sued last year in the US, by Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger after 1,400 of its users were hacked over a two-week period. The attackers were able to install the malicious code and surveillance software developed by NSO, on both iPhones and Android phones, by ringing up targets using the app’s phone call function. While the popular messaging app hurried to close the loophole, the Israeli company denied the allegations altogether as the Israeli Ministry of Defence was known to support it as well.
UK’s Exclusive Fair for VVIPs
In the past four years, the trade fair has included countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Hong Kong, whose human rights records have been criticized. The general public has been barred from the fairs. Whitehall memos show that the government has strict criteria for selecting who attends and exhibits. Brochures from previous years show how firms were seeking to sell equipment for many kinds of surveillance, from software that “intercepts” national phone and internet systems to traditional “bugs” that can be attached to cars or hidden in walls.
Road Ahead for NSO
The government will do all it can to help keep British people and British interests safe in the UK and overseas. – Home Office Spokesperson
It is currently the subject of a lawsuit by international advocacy group Amnesty International, which alleges that the company attempted to hack into one of their employees‘ smartphone. Last week, Reuters revealed that the FBI was also looking into NSO’s role in hacking U.S. residents and companies.