Even if NSO goes away, the cyber attack is here to stay


The wave of lawsuits and scandals that have swept through NSO Group recently is growing. The recent investigations by Citizen Lab, 60 Minutes and Amnesty and Forbidden Stories and the blacklisting of NSO by the US Department of Commerce have created a snowball effect that could permanently bury the Israeli cyberattack company.

Earlier this month, Israel’s Defense Ministry entered the fray, even though it was more of a symbolic act for foreign consumption than a serious gesture. The Defense Ministry canceled waivers on a permit to open negotiations with 60 countries for exporters of weapons or cyberattack technology, leaving just 30 countries, all Western democracies, with the exemption.

The change means that NSO or its competitors will now be forced to apply for a special permit from the Defense Ministry’s export supervision department to begin sales negotiations in those 60 countries. But in terms of export licensing, there is no real change. If the negotiations result in a signed deal, cyber attack companies still need a separate export permit, which the Defense Ministry is discussing anyway, as it always has.

NSO is currently doing everything in its power to be removed from the US Department of Commerce’s blacklist. The company works with many defense organizations in the United States, and its blacklisting interrupts all of its U.S. operations and requires it to go through long and strict regulatory procedures.

If NSO CEO Shalev Hulio fails to persuade US administration bodies to back down, senior cyberattack officials believe the company’s management would prefer to sell its Pegasus spyware division, despite the ‘range of lawsuits against her, to another cyber business. He would then be able to focus on cybersecurity technologies to help governments protect critical infrastructure from enemy countries and quasi-government organizations. In such a case, NSO would have to change its name and adopt a business model similar to that of the American company Palantir Technologies, in other words offering government infrastructure security services through big data products, miniature planes and aircraft. human-operated cybersecurity systems. Another scenario sees a sale of the entire business.

It’s not the company but the concept

NSO is expected to change places, but the idea behind it is alive and well. Dozens of other companies operate similarly around the world and no one in the US administration or Apple is talking about it. The reason for this is contained not only in the high media profile of NSO and the fact that it does not conceal its tools, but also in its technology which is considered to be more immune to upgrading by systems. exploitation of cell phone manufacturers and the fact that there is no need to click on a link to pierce the phone with its invasive software. Indeed, NSO is the “Coca Cola” of the cyberattack industry. Everyone else is imitators.

Ultimately, the concept behind NSO isn’t going away anytime soon. Dozens of companies around the world allow advocacy organizations to penetrate the digital privacy of citizens for defense and other needs. If NSO leaves the cyberattack world by shutting down or being sold, someone else will take the lead.

In addition to the Israeli cyberattack company Candiru, which has also been blacklisted by the United States, there is the Cyprus-based Israeli company Quadream which has made an effort to emulate the NSO system backed by the veteran. IDF intelligence unit 8200 Ehud Schneerson. Quadream provides tools to hack chat apps and is in talks with some governments in East Asia.

The N in NSO

Israel is not alone on the ground: Cyber ​​attack companies that provide hacking and tracing tools for the surveillance of individuals have been set up around the world. Wherever intelligence agencies need cyberattack technology, private companies will be created to sell them technology.

MIT’s tech magazine only recently revealed that US company Accuvant sold United Arab Emirates hacking tools to hack iPhones in 2016 for $ 1.3 million, without US government permission. French company Amesys changed its name to Nexa and continues to sell spyware for phone systems and hacking tools for WiFi systems and electronic weapon systems to shoot down drones, even though a former senior executive was indicted in the past for selling Muammar Gaddafi’s tracking systems to Libya.

And let’s not forget Niv Karmi, one of the founders of NSO, who put the N in NSO and left the company shortly after. Today, he is CEO of Swiss company Polus Tech, which provides governments with surveillance tools based on cellular networks to collect intelligence from phones, whether it’s conversations, text messages, end user data transfers or manipulations.

Posted by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – November 25, 2021.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2021.


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