NSO chief resigns as Israeli spyware company restructures | Technology


By JOSEF FEDERMAN – Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — The chief executive of Israeli spyware maker NSO has resigned as part of a corporate reorganization, the company announced Sunday.

NSO has been linked to a number of scandals stemming from alleged misuse by customers of its flagship Pegasus phone monitoring software. Last year, the United States imposed restrictions on the company, saying its tools had been used to “carry out transnational repression”. NSO denies any wrongdoing.

In a statement, the company said CEO Shalev Hulio, one of its founders, would step down. Yaron Shohat, the company’s chief operating officer, will lead the company on an interim basis and manage the reorganization process while it searches for a new CEO.

A company official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the reorganization efforts, said Hulio should stay with the company. The official added that 100 employees, or about 13% of NSO’s workforce, would be made redundant.

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Pegasus allows operators to stealthily invade a target’s mobile device, giving them access to contacts, messages, and movement history.

The company says Pegasus is only sold to foreign governments after approval by the Israeli Ministry of Defense as a tool to catch criminals and terrorists.

It says it has safeguards in place to prevent abuse, but critics say those safeguards don’t go far enough and NSO has acknowledged it cannot control who its customers monitor. He says he has no access to the information collected.

Critics, including human rights groups and outside researchers, say customers abused Pegasus to keep tabs on journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents in Mexico to Saudi Arabia via the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

NSO does not identify its customers. But the company has admitted to cutting at least seven customers for abusing its technology. These reportedly included authorities from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

Sunday’s statement said the company’s reorganization will examine “all aspects of its business, including streamlining its operations to ensure that NSO remains one of the world’s leading high-tech cyber intelligence companies. , focusing on NATO member countries”.

NSO is also facing lawsuits from Apple and Facebook accusing the Israeli firm of tampering with their products.

The US Commerce Department’s decision to add NSO to its “entity list” hurt the company by limiting its access to US components and technology. NSO disputes the designation.

The company was also hit by an Israeli decision late last year to tighten its oversight of cyber exports. The move, following criticism that Israel’s oversight of the digital surveillance industry was too lax, cut the number of countries that can buy Israeli cyberware from more than 100 to 37.

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