US government faces pressure from Israel to remove NSO from US blacklist


Israeli authorities have reportedly urged the United States to remove NSO Group, a controversial Israeli cyber-surveillance company, from the Commerce Department’s blacklist.

It comes after the department said the spyware company’s actions were inconsistent with US foreign policy and national security concerns.

So, at this point, removing NSO from the list would be a dramatic reversal on the part of the Joe Biden administration, and many progressives in the Democratic Party, Congress, as well as the cyber defense community would criticize the move.

According to Axios, a US official and two Israeli officials said Washington was considering the Israeli request.

However, NSO is reported to have recruited two law firms in the United States to work on the blacklisting issue and a company official reportedly said the lawyers had filed a complaint with the Commerce Department while requesting a hearing, which has not yet taken place.

Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official told Walla: “We told the Americans they shouldn’t tear down NSO. Even if the company had problem customers, that does not mean that the company’s products and capabilities are no longer needed. »

Since last July, when a group of international rights and media organizations revealed that the NSO’s Pegasus program was being used to hack into the phones of journalists, politicians and human rights activists in several countries, including India, Israel has come under intense pressure to end the export of spyware.

NSO has been sued and reprimanded by major tech companies around the world, who accuse it of putting its consumers at risk of hacking. In countries where Israeli leaders feel threatened, the organization has also been accused of spying and pirating strategic software.

In the case of the United States, the Commerce Department blacklisted NSO in 2021, citing evidence that the company developed and distributed spyware to foreign governments, which then used it to deliberately target malicious people from different sectors.

After the ONS was blacklisted, a debate erupted in Tel Aviv, according to Axios, over whether Israel should approach the Biden administration on behalf of the company to have it removed from the list. the blacklist.

Recently, the US Supreme Court asked the administration to consider whether the courts should hear a lawsuit in which WhatsApp accuses NSO of tracking messengers using a spying flaw in the program.

It should be noted here that in October 2019, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the NSO, accusing it of accessing its servers without permission six months prior in order to install Pegasus software on mobile devices.

The messaging platform accused the Israeli company of violating its terms of service and damaging its “reputation, public trust and goodwill” in its first trial.

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