NSO's CEO-designate steps down after U.S. blacklisting

Group's co-president Isaac Benbenisti, named CEO last month but not yet assumed role, cites U.S. decision to add company to Entity List for Malicious Cyber Activities following accusations of spyware sales

News agencies|
The CEO-designate of NSO Group has resigned on Thursday, according to local media reports, citing the Israeli spyware company's blacklisting by the U.S. Commerce Department last week.
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  • Isaac Benbenisti, an NSO Group co-president, was named for the top role on Oct. 31, but had yet to assume it. Some Israeli media incorrectly described him as already serving as CEO.
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    איציק בנבנישתי מנכ"ל פרטנר לשעבר
    איציק בנבנישתי מנכ"ל פרטנר לשעבר
    NSO co-president Isaac Benbenisti
    (Photo: Amit Shaal)
    In its decision to add NSO and three other companies to Entity List for Malicious Cyber Activities, U.S. officials said the firms "developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers."
    NSO Group declined to comment.
    U.S. media outlets reported on Tuesday that the government was looking to lobby the United States into removing the NSO Group and Candiru, another Israeli company that was added to the list.
    Israel was reported to attempt to convince the Biden administration that the activities of NSO Group and Candiru are relevant to the security interests of both Jerusalem and Washington.
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      NSO offices in Herzliya
      NSO offices in Herzliya
    NSO offices in Herzliya
    (Photo: AFP)
    NSO Group contests that the company’s software was developed only to aid countries in their fights against terrorism and other criminal threats.
    The firm’s licensing is overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, and as a result, the two unnamed officials allege that U.S. accusations towards NSO Group are tantamount to claims against Israel itself, according to NYT.
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