Countries that NSO Group’s Products were operated in:

Algeria

Bahrain

Bangladesh

Egypt

France

Iraq

Israel

Jordan

Kuwait

Kyrgyzstan

Latvia

Lebanon

Libya

Oman

Pakistan

Poland

Qatar

Switzerland

Tajikistan

Togo

Tunisia

UAE

Uzbekistan

Yemen

Zambia

Main Products:

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NSO Group

Established in 2010, NSO Group is one of the largest Israeli hi-tech companies, specializing in spying, with annual revenues estimated at $200-250 million according to available publications.[1]

NSO Group employed almost 500 people as of 2017 and is based in Herzliya, Israel. The founders are Niv Carmi (N) Shalev Hulio (S) and Omri Lavie (O). Carmi feft the company one month after its inception.

The private equity firm Francisco Partners purchased NSO Group for $120 million in 2014.  NSO has close partnerships with a variety of other Israeli surveillance firms as they seek to spread their spy kit across the world. These include among others Ability Inc. Another Israeli company that made headlines for hacking iPhones, Cellebrite, has also been in communication with NSO, though they operate at different levels of police investigations.

In 2019, the company was acquired by its founders and management, with the support of the European private equity firm Novalpina Capital. Q cyber, an NSO affiliate, holds 63% of issued ordinary shares.

Pegasus:

An investigation by Citizen Lab in 2018 revealed that NSO Group spying technology was allegedly used in at least six countries with a history of tracking human rights activists: Bahrain, KazakhstanMexicoMoroccoSaudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.[2]

According to the investigation, in 2016, dozens of Mexican lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders were targeted by the Mexican government using NSO’s   Pegasus  spyware. During the same year, Pegasus spyware was used to target the UAE activist Ahmad Mansour. The Israeli Defense Export Control Agency (DECA) authorized three deals in the UAE, for the total amount of $80 million.[3]

It has been reported that the company also provided the Saudi government with the spyware to spy on the journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his murder.[4] An associate of Khashoggi filed a suit against the company in an Israeli court, asking to issue an order prohibiting the company from selling its spyware, and halt its installation in Saudi Arabia. The plaintiff has also demanded NIS 600,000 in damages.[5] In October 2019, Amnesty International uncovered targeted digital attacks using Pegasus against two Moroccan human rights defenders.[6] In October 2019, the company was sued by Facebook, which claimed that the company attempted to hack 1,400 “target devices” and steal information from human rights activists, journalists and others using the WhatsApp app.[7] In the lawsuit, WhatsApp claims that servers controlled by NSO rather than government clients were an integral part of the way the hacks were executed. [8]

Documented targets of surveillance reliant on NSO Group technology include (Source: Amnesty International report)

  • Ahmed Mansoor, 1 a human rights defender in the United Arab Emirates, who was targeted with NSO Group technology in 2016. He was arrested in March 2017 and remains imprisoned in solitary confinement without access to medication or other necessities.
  • A scientist and two public health advocates working to support a soda tax in Mexico.
  • Journalists and organizations in Mexico working on issues related to corruption.
  • Journalists at Río Doce newspaper investigating organized crime and cartels in Mexico.
  • Lawyers and journalists whose work concerned the investigation of murders potentially linked to state and federal authorities in Mexico.
  • International expert investigators working on the 2014 Iguala Mass Disappearance in Mexico, and lawyers working with the families of students disappeared in that incident.
  • Politicians, including a senator, who were members of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) in Mexico.
  • Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi activist and permanent resident of Canada. Omar Abdulaziz was also a close colleague of murdered Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, with whom he had been in regular contact on his mobile device.
  • An Amnesty International staff member, who received a suspicious link in June 2018 baited with Saudi Arabia-related content that, if opened, would have deployed potent spyware.
  • Maati Monjib, an academic and activist working on freedom of expression, and Abdessadak El Bouchattaoui, a human rights lawyer, both from Morocco.
  • A lawyer in the UK involved in a civil action filed against NSO Group.
  • A journalist from the US reporting on Saudia Arabia, who is based in Lebanon.
  • • A Catalan politician and pro-independence supporters in Spain.
  • • Over 1,400 individuals targeted with an NSO Group exploit of Facebook’s WhatsApp platform, disclosed by WhatsApp in October 2019. WhatsApp, in collaboration with Citizen Lab, revealed that more than 100 of these targets were HRDs, activists and journalists, across numerous
    countries including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.
  • Bela Bhatia, a human rights lawyer and activist in India.
  • Aboubakr Jamaï, a journalist in Morocco.
  • Fouad Abdelmoumni, a HRD in Morocco.
  • Placide Kayumba, an activist in Rwanda.
  • Father Pierre Marie-Chanel Affognon, a
    Catholic priest and founder of a reform movement in Togo.
 

You can find more information about NSO Group and Pegasus in the project “Digital Violence” by Forensic Architecture, CitizenLab and Amnesty International.

According to an investigation by Forbidden Stories, published in July 2021at least 180 journalists around the world have been selected as targets by clients of the cybersurveillance company NSO Group.

Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International had access to a leak of more than 50,000 records of phone numbers that NSO clients selected for surveillance. According to an analysis of these records by Forbidden Stories and its partners, the phones of at least 180 journalists were selected in 20 countries by at least 10 NSO clients. These government clients range from autocratic (Bahrain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia) to democratic (India and Mexico) and span the entire world, from Hungary and Azerbaijan in Europe to Togo and Rwanda in Africa.[19]

Fleming: Profiteering from the Covid-19 Crisis

In March 2020, Bloomberg reported that NSO developed a new product, named “Fleming”, that has the ability to analyze huge volumes of data to map people’s movements.[9] The tool tracks citizens by assigning them random IDs, which the government can de-anonymize at any given moment. According to media reports, the product was being piloted in a dozen countries. [10]

A report by Forensic Architecture published in December 2020 reported on a database collected by NSO’s Fleming program that was found unprotected online. It contained more than five hundred thousand datapoints for approximately 32,000 distinct mobile phones. This database was used as a marketing tool to market the system to countries around the world. The mobile phones tracked were those of citizens in Israel, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Rwanda – all countries with ongoing contractual relationships with NSO Group.[11]

Subsidiaries:

The company owns the counter-drone company Convexum.

The offensive cyber company Circles Technologies possess close business ties to NSO Group, and according to multiple reports is even under its control or under that of NSO’s founders.[12]  According to a report by Forensic News, documents from Cyprus, where Circles was registered attest that the company was acquired by NSO in 2014 through a Luxembourg-registered subsidiary.[13]

In 2021, Amnesty International, Privacy International and the centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) published this report about NSO’s corporate structure.

The Military Connection:

Shalev Hulio, a co-founder of NSO, served as “a Major in the Israeli army’s Search and Rescue unit and continues to serve in the army reserve and has been involved in a number of search and rescue operations in both Israel and abroad”.[14] Senior advisor Daniel Reisner served as the head of the Israeli army’s International Law Department and was responsible for advising the Israeli leadership on “Israeli-Palestinian relations” and “counter-terrorism operations.”[15] Buky Carmeli, another senior advisor, is the former head of Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) Cyber Defense division. [16] In addition, some of the company’s employees were veterans of Unit 8200, the Military Intelligence Directorate’s main information gathering unit.[17]  [18]

1. ^ https://www.calcalist.co.il/internet/arti-cles/0,7340,L-3714021,00.html

2. ^ https://citizenlab.ca/2018/09/hide-and-seek-tracking-nso-groups-pegasus-spyware-to-operations-in-45-countries/

3. ^ https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5444998,00.html

4. ^ https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/nso-group-allegedly-provided-software-to-saudi-govt-to-spy-on-khashoggi-citizen-lab-who-reported-it-in-turn-targeted-by-undercover-agents#c182839

5. ^ https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-saudi-friend-of-murdered-journalist-sues-nso-in-israeli-court-1001263262

6. ^ https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2019/10/morocco-human-rights-defenders-targeted-with-nso-groups-spyware/

7. ^ https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-facebook-sues-israqeli-co-nso-for-allegedly-hacking-whatsapp-1001305184

8. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/29/whatsapp-israeli-firm-deeply-involved-in-hacking-our-users

9. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-17/surveillance-company-nso-supplying-data-analysis-to-stop-virus

10. ^ https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/epg9jm/nso-covid-19-surveillance-tech-software-tracking-infected-privacy-experts-worried

11. ^ https://forensic-architecture.org/investigation/nso-groups-breach-of-private-data-with-fleming-a-covid-19-contact-tracing-software

12. ^ https://www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3878410,00.html

13. ^ https://www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3878410,00.html

14. ^ https://www.nsogroup.com/about-us/board-of-directors/

15. ^ https://www.nsogroup.com/about-us/board-of-directors/

16. ^ https://www.nsogroup.com/about-us/board-of-directors/

17. ^ https://www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3758992,00.html

18. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/12/israeli-intelligence-veterans-letter-netanyahu-military-chiefs

19. ^ https://forbiddenstories.org/pegasus-the-new-global-weapon-for-silencing-journalists/

NSO Group

Established in 2010, NSO Group is one of the largest Israeli hi-tech companies, specializing in spying, with annual revenues estimated at $200-250 million according to available publications.[1]

NSO Group employed almost 500 people as of 2017 and is based in Herzliya, Israel. The founders are Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie.

The private equity firm Francisco Partners purchased NSO Group for $120 million in 2014.  NSO has close partnerships with a variety of other Israeli surveillance firms as they seek to spread their spy kit across the world. These include among others Ability Inc. Another Israeli company that made headlines for hacking iPhones, Cellebrite, has also been in communication with NSO, though they operate at different levels of police investigations.

In 2019, the company was acquired by its founders and management, with the support of the European private equity firm Novalpina Capital. Q cyber, an NSO affiliate, holds 63% of issued ordinary shares.

An investigation by Citizen Lab revealed that NSO Group spying technology was allegedly used in at least six countries with a history of tracking human rights activists: Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.[1]

According to the investigation, in 2016, dozens of Mexican lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders were targeted by the Mexican government using NSO’s   Pegasus  spyware. During the same year, Pegasus spyware was used to target the UAE activist Ahmad Mansour. The Israeli Defense Export Control Agency (DECA) authorized three deals in the UAE, for the total amount of $80 million.[2]

It has been reported that the company also provided the Saudi government with the spyware to spy on the journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his murder.[3] An associate of Khashoggi filed a suit against the company in an Israeli court, asking to issue an order prohibiting the company from selling its spyware, and halt its installation in Saudi Arabia. The plaintiff has also demanded NIS 600,000 in damages.[4] In October 2019, Amnesty International uncovered targeted digital attacks using Pegasus against two Moroccan human rights defenders.[5] In October 2019, the company was sued by Facebook, which claimed that the company attempted to hack 1,400 “target devices” and steal information from human rights activists, journalists and others using the WhatsApp app.[6] In the lawsuit, WhatsApp claims that servers controlled by NSO rather than government clients were an integral part of the way the hacks were executed. [7]

In March 2020, Bloomberg reported that NSO developed a new product, named “Fleming”, that has the ability to analyze huge volumes of data to map people’s movements.[1] The tool tracks citizens by assigning them random IDs, which the government can de-anonymize at any given moment. According to media reports, the product was being piloted in a dozen countries. [2] 

A report by Forensic Architecture published in December 2020 reported on a database collected by NSO’s Fleming program that was found unprotected online. It contained more than five hundred thousand datapoints for approximately 32,000 distinct mobile phones. This database was used as a marketing tool to market the system to countries around the world. The mobile phones tracked were those of citizens in Israel, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Rwanda – all countries with ongoing contractual relationships with NSO Group.[3]

The company owns the counter-drone company Convexum.

The offensive cyber company Circles Technologies possess close business ties to NSO Group, and according to multiple reports is even under its control or under that of NSO’s founders.[1]  According to a report by Forensic News, documents from Cyprus, where Circles was registered attest that the company was acquired by NSO in 2014 through a Luxembourg-registered subsidiary.[2]

Shalev Hulio, a co-founder of NSO, served as “a Major in the Israeli army’s Search and Rescue unit and continues to serve in the army reserve and has been involved in a number of search and rescue operations in both Israel and abroad”.[1] Senior advisor Daniel Reisner served as the head of the Israeli army’s International Law Department and was responsible for advising the Israeli leadership on “Israeli-Palestinian relations” and “counter-terrorism operations.”[2] Buky Carmeli, another senior advisor, is the former head of Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) Cyber Defense division. [3] In addition, some of the company’s employees were veterans of Unit 8200, the Military Intelligence Directorate’s main information gathering unit.[4]  [5]

Algeria

Bahrain

Bangladesh

Cote d’Ivoire

Egypt

France

Iraq

Israel

Jordan

Kenya

Kuwait

Kyrgyzstan

Latvia

Lebanon

Libya

Mexico

Oman

Pakistan

Poland

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

Singapore

Switzerland

Tajikistan

Thailand

Togo

Tunisia

Turkey

UAE

Uzbekistan

Yemen

Zambia