After NSO Ban, Israel Fears U.S. Wants To Crush All Of Its Cyber Firms
Like several other things from the Netanyahu era that are no more, the cybertechnology diplomacy of the former premier is now facing a hopeless situation.
Photo Insert: The NSO Group is currently being sued by Apple for allegedly targeting iPhone users with a hacking tool.
In his final years in office, Netanyahu boasted about his policy’s three-pronged accomplishment: Renewing economic pressure on Iran by US President Donald Trump; significant breakthrough in relations with Arab and Muslim countries, and; an expansion of Israel’s circle of friends around the world, to a great extent thanks to Israel’s advanced high-tech sector.
Reality has been less heartwarming. In more than a few cases, what Netanyahu plied to his new friends, many of whom were autocrats who sought to amass additional power for themselves at the expense of their citizens, was offensive cyber technology enabling them to invade people’s privacy and monitor and spy on journalists and opponents of their regimes, Amos Harel and Chaim Levinson reported for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Along with closer relations, ties were forged between Israeli intelligence and senior officials in these countries, laying the groundwork for the purchase of Pegasus, the Israeli NSO firm’s advanced spyware.
Haaretz detailed the method in a behind-the-scenes report about a deal put together with Saudi Arabia more than three years ago. But the days in which that company from Herzliya worked in secret with the active encouragement of the prime minister and the intelligence community are over, never to return.
NSO is now caught up in huge problems, following the series of revelations on its activities and the sanctions that the Biden administration imposed on it last month.
Defense officials think the sanctions could soon bring about the company’s collapse and a shutdown of its operations. The company depends upon constant innovation: It’s one Apple or Android cellphone update away from the failure of its products.
If it doesn’t manage to hold onto the best personnel in the world, the kind who would continue to find vulnerabilities in the operating systems, they won’t have a product. Senior officials have told Haaretz that the move by the United States has totally paralyzed the company’s future operations.
“They’re not able to buy a pen at a Walmart store,” the officials quipped. If an American company wants to sell them products, it needs a special permit.