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Sat May 29, 2021, 02:05 PM

Facing a public backlash, an Israeli spyware firm is now scoring its government customers

WASHINGTON — When Shmuel Sunray accepted the job in the fall of 2019 as chief legal counsel for NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company accused of selling malware used against journalists and dissidents, he knew it would be a challenge.

Founded in 2009 by ex-military and intelligence officers, the company created a hacking tool called Pegasus that promised cops and spies access to criminals’ and terrorists’ private text messages, photos, cameras and microphones.

But NSO’s customers don’t always just go after child pornographers and drug traffickers. In 2018, human rights group Amnesty International accused NSO in court of helping the Saudi government spy on a close associate of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Then Facebook sued NSO just a day after Sunray started work, alleging the company had helped hack over 1,400 of its customers.

Novalpina Capital, the London-based private equity firm that acquired NSO in February 2019, was already under fire from activists demanding answers about how the firm would address the company’s alleged abuses and advocating for stricter regulation of the spyware industry.


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