‘BDS or Qatar behind NSO scandal,’ says spyware group’s CEO

“This isn’t a coincidence. The Israeli cyber sector is under attack,” NSO Group CEO Shalev Hulio told Israel Hayom.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

In an exclusive interview with Israel Hayom, the CEO of the embattled NSO spyware group fought back against reports that the company had knowingly exported its technology to be used against activists and political opponents of governments across the world.

Shalev Hulio charged that the allegations that his company intentionally armed governments with its Pegasus cellphone hacking spyware, knowing that it would be used to infringe on people’s civil liberties, are part of an orchestrated anti-Israel campaign aimed at hurting the Jewish State’s cybersecurity industry.

“This whole story isn’t just incidental. The Israeli cyber sector is under attack, in general,” Hulio told Israel Hayom.

“There are so many cyber intelligence companies in the world, but everyone just focuses on the Israeli ones. Forming a consortium like this of journalists from all over the world and bringing Amnesty [International] into it – it looks like there’s a guiding hand behind it.”

Hulio said he believed the so-called smear campaign was launched by “Qatar, or the BDS movement, or both. In the end, it’s always the same entities.

“There are people who don’t want ice cream to be imported here [to Israel] or for technology to be exported….it’s no coincidence that the same week that people try to prevent Cellebrite’s IPO, an expose about [cyber firm] Candiru is published, and now us.

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“It can’t be that this is all coincidental.”

NSO Group sells its technology to governments under strict conditions, Hulio said. Governments must promise to use Pegasus only for preventing terrorism or fighting crime.

“There are governments that you know you can’t trust. That violate human rights, that bug journalists, that are corrupt,” he said, adding that NSO had refused to provide its technology to governments with a history of persecuting political dissenters.

“In every instance when we receive reliable information about [governments abusing Pegasus], we investigate….the customer has to give us access to some logs and show all the actions in which the system is used, and if we see anything out of bounds, we can shut them down…

“We had five customers whose systems we shut down in the past few years.”

In the past two years, Hulio said, NSO Group turned down over $300 million from governments that they decided could not be trusted with the technology or from those whose access was cut off upon discovering that Pegasus was being misused.

“We’ll be very happy if there is an investigation into the affair, because we’ll be able to clear our name,” Hulio said.