US intelligence officials have reportedly backed a US military contractor L3Harris desire to buy Israeli spyware company NSO Group.
Representatives of contractor L3Harris visited Israel to hold secret negotiations to acquire the company, during which they indicated that US intelligence had agreed to approve the deal.
However, when information about the talks reached the press, L3Harris notified the Biden administration that talks to acquire the NSO Group had ceased, although several people familiar with the situation said that attempts were still being made to restart talks.
NSO Group has been in crisis since it was placed on a US blacklist prohibiting US firms from doing business with the Israeli company. In November last year, the US Department of Commerce put NSO Group on its list of entities, barring it from buying US technology. This was because of the company's customers, included Hungary, India, Mexico, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, which had used its software for questionable purposes.
If the deal goes through, it is likely that only “five eyes” alliance (the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) will be able to use the NSO Group's technologies.
The White House said it was not "in any way involved in this reported potential transaction."
A senior White House official also said:
The US government opposes efforts by foreign companies to circumvent US export control measures or sanctions, including placement on the US Department of Commerce's Entity List for malicious cyber activity.
NSO Group is an Israeli IT firm primarily known for its spyware Pegasus. The program can infect a target’s phone via just a text message and then start sending back data, including photos, messages, and audio / video recordings. We have previously written about this company, you can read more here.