NSO chief resigns as Israeli spy software firm restructures | Tech Talks and Innovations

JERUSALEM (AP) — The chief executive of Israeli spyware maker NSO has resigned as part of a corporate reorganization, the company announced Sunday.

NSO has been embroiled in a series of scandals stemming from alleged misuse by customers of its flagship Pegasus phone surveillance software. Last year, the US imposed restrictions on the company, saying that its tools were used to “carry out transnational repression”. NSO denies any wrongdoing.

The company’s statement says that CEO Shalev Julio, one of its founders, will resign. Yaron Shohat, the company’s chief operating officer, will lead the firm on an interim basis and lead the reorganization process while it searches for a new CEO.

A company official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the reorganization effort, said Julio will remain with the company. The official added that 100 employees, or about 13% of the NSO workforce, would be laid off.

Pegasus allows operators to stealthily break into a target’s mobile device, giving them access to contacts, messages and movement history.

The company says Pegasus is only sold to foreign governments after approval by Israel’s Ministry of Defense as a tool to catch criminals and terrorists.

It says it has safeguards in place to prevent abuse, but critics say those safeguards don’t go far enough, and the NSO has admitted it can’t control who its customers follow. He says he does not have access to the information being collected.

Critics, including rights groups and outside researchers, say customers have abused Pegasus to track journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents from Mexico to Saudi Arabia to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

NSO does not identify its customers. But the company has acknowledged shutting down at least seven customers for abusing its technology. It is reported that these are the authorities of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

The firm’s reorganization will examine “all aspects of its business, including streamlining its operations to ensure that NSO remains one of the world’s leading high-tech cyber intelligence companies with a focus on NATO member states,” the statement said on Sunday.

NSO also faces lawsuits from Apple and Facebook accusing an Israeli firm of hacking their products.

The US Commerce Department’s decision to add NSO to its “list of entities” hurt the company by limiting its access to American components and technology. The NSO is contesting the appointment.

The company was also hit by Israel’s decision late last year strengthen his supervision cyber export. The decision, which came amid criticism that Israel’s oversight of the digital surveillance industry was too lax, reduced the number of countries that can purchase Israeli cyber software from more than 100 to 37.

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