Spyware company celebrates Netanyahu’s return, hopes for stronger ties with Saudis – report

“Don’t worry,” Shalev Hulio, the co-founder and former CEO of the NSO Group, reportedly told guests at a dinner party in Tel Aviv several months ago. “Netanyahu is coming back.” The NSO group denied the report.

By World Israel News Staff

After a human rights scandal that made international headlines and saw the CEO of the embattled company step down, spyware manufacturer the NSO Group is reportedly optimistic that Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power will pave the way for renewed deals with Saudi Arabia.

According to a Financial Times report, senior figures at the NSO Group believe that Netanyahu’s election victory will pave the way for the company – which had to lay off dozens of employees in 2022 and was blacklisted by the U.S. State Department – to resume doing business with foreign governments.

“Don’t worry,” Shalev Hulio, the co-founder and former CEO of the NSO Group, reportedly told guests at a dinner party in Tel Aviv several months ago. “Netanyahu is coming back.”

Netanyahu had pledged to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia if elected. Although Jerusalem and Riyadh don’t have formal ties, the two countries have long engaged in coordination on security and regional issues, primarily focused on the Iranian threat.

According to an i24News report Tuesday, the Saudis have said that normalization with Israel is only a matter of time.

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The creators of the mobile phone hacking software Pegasus, the NSO Group came under international scrutiny after reports that the solution had been used by the Saudi Arabian government to break into the cellphone of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Pegasus spyware was reportedly sold to multiple countries with spotty human rights records, and critics argued that the NSO Group should not have given repressive regimes the power technology.

Although the technology is supposed to be used to combat terrorism and imminent threats to public safety, journalists, political activists, and dissidents in several countries were the victims of phone hacking carried out via Pegasus.

The NSO group vehemently denied the report in a statement to the Financial Times, saying that the outlet had spoken with “politically motivated sources based on hearsay” and disputing the “alleged customers, conversations that never occurred, and the company’s financial condition.”