Could a lawsuit against Apple mean the end of Israeli NSO cybercriminals? – Middle East Monitor

This week, it emerged that Apple, the Silicon Valley giant, is suing Israeli spyware maker NSO Group.

The creators of the iPad, iMac, iPhone and so many other iconic computer products have announced that they have filed a lawsuit to hold NSO “responsible for monitoring and targeting Apple users.”

I have already covered the issue of NSO and its Pegasus spyware in this column.

Pegasus is powerful software used to hack smartphones. The phones are then effectively turned into weapons against their own users, after being totally hijacked. The phone can be controlled remotely and all of its content stolen, even the camera and microphone being turned on at will.

NSO sold this lucrative hacking service for millions of dollars to some of the world’s most oppressive regimes, including Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

While NSO’s public relations department claims its services are only used to fight crime and “terrorism,” experts have repeatedly spotted Pegasus on the phones of journalists, dissidents, human rights activists and even politicians.

Apple isn’t the first American company to sue NSO. WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook (now renamed Meta) in 2019 launched legal action against NSO. Several other large Silicon Valley companies supported the lawsuit.

It emerged this summer that NSO’s software was likely being used to target mainstream journalists and establishment politicians in Europe, including French President Emmanuel Macron. He was one of 14 world leaders included in the leaked list of “interesting” numbers for NSO Group customers.

READ: Israel is the world’s largest exporter of cybercrime

The cumulative effect of all these revelations has now had a significant and concrete consequence. Earlier this month, the US government blacklisted NSO and another Israeli cyber company, Candiru. The two men have carried out projects that aim “to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businessmen, activists, academics and embassy workers,” the US Department of Commerce said.

This means that NSO will no longer be able to purchase products and services from US companies. Apple is also seeking in its new lawsuit to ban NSO from using its products again.


A view of the entrance to the branch office of Israeli cyber company NSO Group in the Arava Desert on November 11, 2021 in Sapir, Israel. [Amir Levy/Getty Images]

To add even more woe to the head of NSO, Moody’s credit rating downgraded the Israeli company’s credit rating this week and announced that the company was at risk of defaulting on half a billion dollars in loans.

“The company has a relatively low share of recurring revenue and is, unlike many other software companies, heavily dependent on new license sales which we believe can become increasingly difficult given the actions taken against NSO.” , Moody’s said.

In other words, the new US sanction imposed on NSO means that the company is now struggling to get new clients or raise new funding (and all the negative publicity resulting from journalistic exposure of its nefarious practices will not. can’t really help either).

Could we finally see the beginning of the end for NSO Group and its cybercrime racketeering? It is not yet certain. But it is certainly possible.

While the final closure of the NSO Group would be a welcome development, there is a much larger problem here. NSO is just one of many cybercrime organizations that have the official Israeli government seal of approval.

READ: Israel cuts cybertech sales amid NSO scandal

Software and services developed by NSO are rightly categorized as cyber weapons, and they are officially licensed for export by the Israeli government itself.

It is not known how many such mercenary Israeli spy and cybercrime companies there are, but the ones we know of are most likely the tip of the iceberg. The fact that I had never even heard of Candiru before the U.S. government blacklisted him alongside NSO this month is testament to that.

There’s a whole slew of these criminal entities being pushed by Israel, such as Black Cube, the Israeli mercenary “intelligence” firm perhaps best known for being hired by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to spy on his. victims of rape and sexual assault in an attempt to intimidate them into testifying against him.

Fortunately, Weinstein was sent to prison after his conviction.

When will the leaders of NSO and Black Cube be sent to jail? Unfortunately, we could wait a long time for this.

The opinions expressed in this article are the property of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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