Israeli authorities are reportedly urging the United States to remove the NSO Group, a controversial Israeli cyber surveillance firm, from the Commerce Department’s blacklist.
This comes after the department stated that the spyware company’s actions were incompatible with US foreign policy and national security concerns.
So at this point, removing NSO from the list would be a dramatic reversal by the Joe Biden administration, and many Democratic Party progressives, Congress, as well as the cyber defence community would criticise the move.
According to Axios, one US and two Israeli officials said that Washington was considering the Israeli demand.
However, it is reported that NSO has recruited two law firms in the US to work on the blacklist problem and a company official reportedly said that the lawyers filed an appeal with the Department of Commerce while requesting a hearing, which has yet to occur.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official told Walla: “We told the Americans that they should not tear down NSO. Even if the company had some problematic customers, it does not mean that the company’s products and capabilities are no longer needed.”
Since last July, when a group of international rights and media organisations revealed that the NSO’s Pegasus programme was used to hack the phones of journalists, politicians, and human rights activists in several countries, including India, Israel has been under intense pressure to halt the export of spyware.
NSO has been sued and chastised by big technology businesses all around the world, who accuse it of placing its consumers at risk of hacking. In nations where the Israeli leadership feels threatened, the organisation has also been accused of spying and hacking strategic software.
In the case of the US, the Commerce Department placed NSO on a blacklist in 2021, citing evidence that the company developed and distributed spyware to foreign governments, which then used it to maliciously target people from different sectors.
After the NSO was blacklisted, a debate erupted within Tel Aviv, according to the Axios, about whether Israel should contact the Biden administration on behalf of the corporation to get it removed from the blacklist.
Recently, the US Supreme Court asked the administration to review whether courts should hear a lawsuit in which WhatsApp accuses NSO of tracking messengers using an espionage flaw in the programme.
Here it should be noted that in October 2019, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the NSO, accusing it of gaining access to its servers without permission six months prior in order to install the Pegasus software on mobile devices.
The messaging platform accused the Israeli corporation of violating its terms of service and harming its “reputation, public trust, and goodwill” in its first court lawsuit.