CEO of Israeli Pegasus spyware firm NSO to step down

CEO Shalev Hulio is stepping down as part of NSO reorganisation that will see it focus on sales in Nato member countries

Israel’s NSO Group, which makes the globally controversial Pegasus spyware said on Sunday its CEO Shalev Hulio would step down as part of a reorganisation.

The indebted, privately owned company also said it would focus sales on countries belonging to the Nato alliance.

“NSO Group announced today the company will reorganise and CEO Shalev Hulio will step down,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

The firm’s chief operating officer, Yaron Shohat, will now “take the lead” and manage the reorganisation process, the spokesperson added.

The reorganisation “will examine all aspects of its business, including streamlining its operations to ensure NSO remains one of the world’s leading hi-tech cyber intelligence companies, focusing on Nato-member countries,” a reference to the 30-member political and military alliance.

Pegasus spyware is used to infiltrate mobile phones and extract data or activate cameras or microphones.

NSO Group says the software is sold only to government agencies to target criminals and terrorists, and sales require Israeli government approval.

However, the spyware is alleged to have been deployed by foreign governments against dissidents, journalists, diplomats and members of the clergy. Its clients have included Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Hungary and India.

In November 2021, the Biden administration placed the company on a US blacklist after it determined it had acted “contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the US”.

The new designation – which places NSO in the company of hackers from China and Russia – came three months after a consortium of journalists working with the French non-profit group Forbidden Stories, revealed multiple cases of journalists and activists who were hacked by foreign governments using the spyware, including American citizens.

The Guardian and other members of the consortium also revealed that the mobile numbers of Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and nearly his entire cabinet were contained on a leaked list of individuals who were selected as possible targets of surveillance.

With Agence France-Presse

Staff and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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