US defense company in talks over buying NSO's Pegasus
According to reports, L3Harris technologies is discussing a possible sale of the Israeli Pegasus spyware from NSO Group.
According to The Washington Post, US defense business L3Harris Technologies is in talks to potentially purchase Israeli cyber outfit NSO Group's notorious Pegasus spyware.
L3Harris has denied acknowledging that a contract to buy the Pegasus malware is in the works.
According to those acquainted with the discussions, there are still a number of specifics to be worked out in the arrangement, including the price and location of the malware.
A White House official told The Washington Post, which reported jointly on the story with The Guardian and Haaretz, that Biden's administration is worried about the possible purchase due to security risks for the government.
If the agreement is approved, the US government would conduct a thorough examination to assess the harm it may represent to the US, according to the article.
NSO Group has been embroiled in a seemingly never-ending spate of extremely prominent controversies. Revelations that it sells its powerful Pegasus spyware to authoritarian regimes and that its products have been used to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, and even potentially world leaders, as well as the accusations that it played a role in Jamal Khashoggi's death have put it at the center of international criticism.
However, it is not simply litigation and controversy that are generating problems for NSO. Since the malware provider was essentially blacklisted by the US government last autumn, it has encountered growing financial difficulties.
According to a US official, the US National Security Council is considering a ban on US government purchases or use of foreign commercial spyware that may pose a security risk to the US or has been used unlawfully outside.
The United Arab Emirates allegedly employed Israeli Pegasus spyware to breach the British Prime Minister's office network in 2020 and 2021, according to Canadian cybersecurity firm Citizen Lab. Several official networks in the United Kingdom were compromised with the Pegasus malware, with 10 Downing Street and the UK Foreign Office being the primary targets.
In January, a press investigation published by Calcalist revealed that the Israeli company was involved in wiretapping the Israelis, using NSO's wiretapping spyware, without issuing orders authorizing it to do so.
The report stated that the police targeted, in the spy program, mayors and organizers of protests against former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known as the "black flags" protests.