NSO Group mulls sale or shutdown of Pegasus spyware

Israeli firm is said to edge closer to defaulting on roughly $500m of debt after being blacklisted by the U.S. in November for its illegal use of the controversial spyware

Israeli technology firm NSO Group is reportedly considering a sale of the company or shutting down its controversial Pegasus spyware, according to reports of private discussions between officials.
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  • People involved in the talks indicated two potential suitors for the company in exchange for a $200 million injection of capital and a shift into strictly defensive cybersecurity services, Bloomberg News reported.
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    NSO בניין
    NSO בניין
    NSO Group's offices in southern Israel
    (Photo: Reuters)
    NSO Group edged closer to defaulting on roughly $500m of debt after being blacklisted by the U.S. Department of Commerce in November for its illegal use of the spyware.
    The U.S. agency accused NSO of selling its smartphone-hacking product to countries that used it for “transnational repression,” while human rights groups condemned the technology.
    Pegasus was responsible for about half of NSO Group's revenue, according to Bloomberg.
    An in-depth investigation by major media outlets and nonprofits around the world found that the spyware was used to target journalists, activists, and politicians in dozens of countries.
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    שלו חוליו מנכ"ל חברת NSO
    שלו חוליו מנכ"ל חברת NSO
    NSO CEO Shalev Hulio
    (Photo: Avital Peleg)
    While NSO Group maintained that the software was only meant to assist countries in fighting crime and terrorism, it was still blacklisted alongside another Israeli company Candiru.
    The report cited officials discussing whether to sell the entire company or to just close its Pegasus unit and focus instead on its drone defense system.
    Another avenue under consideration is turning Pegasus into a “defensive” product, a move the company estimates could raise as much as $200m from U.S.-based investors, Bloomberg reported.
    However, it is unclear how NSO Group or the Israeli government could ensure the spyware is only used for defensive purposes.
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