US Investors Want to Buy Israeli Spy Company NSO
NSO, the company behind the Pegasus spyware that intercepts human rights activists and journalists, among others, is likely to be sold. The tentative plan appears to be to deploy the spy tools on behalf of the US.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, NSO talks with several American investment companies. One of these, Integrity Partners, would be very concrete. For example, there is a letter with concrete intentions to restructure the company thoroughly.
According to that letter, Integrity Partners would establish a subsidiary, Integrity Labs, that would run NSO and a $300 million investment in the company. At the same time, efforts are being made to make the company acceptable again, at least in the US, where it is now blacklisted.
NSO makes spyware that it makes available to other countries. This is formally legal and to track down terrorists, among other things. In practice, however, the spyware was also offered to less democratic and unethical regimes, which they used to intercept and hinder human rights activists and journalists, as well as American officials.
American tech companies are also furious with the company. WhatsApp (Meta) and iPhones (Apple) were intercepted in this way. In recent months, the Israeli government has also been unenthusiastic about the software being offered to some 37 regimes, often for purposes unrelated to terrorism. The most recent case is two Poles, one who is politically active and clashes with the current government, another who wrote a book about the head of the Polish secret service.
According to the letter of intent that Haaretz was able to view, NSO would only work for the so-called Five Eyes with its new owner. That is a collaboration of the intelligence services of the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. On the one hand, this means that less democratic regimes can no longer use spyware. But on the other hand, the US is also known for spying to its heart’s content, even among European allies and their heads of government.
Another area of focus is lobbying to relieve pressure from US tech companies whose devices and apps are misused to hack phones. The Pegasus spyware would also remain in development.
Haaretz asked NSO for a response, in which the company confirms that it is talking with acquirers but calls the concrete plans ‘tendentiously incorrect’ with ‘half truths’.