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US company said in talks to buy Israeli cyber-surveillance firm for $1 billion

The Israeli NSO Group, now owned by US private equity firm Francisco Partners Management, has flown far under the radar, without even a website
Jack Guez (AFP)
NSO Group is known for selling military-grade cyber-surveillance technology to mainly gov't security agencies

American software firm Verint Systems Inc. is in talks to buy Israeli company NSO Group, known for its production of cyber-surveillance technologies, for an estimated $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Neither company offered a comment on the reported acquisition, the WSJ said.

NSO Group is known for selling military-grade cyber-surveillance technologies to mainly government security agencies, including the Pegasus spyware which enables hackers to access personal data, listen in on phone calls, activate cameras, and harvest messages.

The Israeli firm came under scrutiny last year when the Toronto-based internet watchdog group “Citizen Lab” revealed that the NSO-developed Pegasus spyware had been used by the Mexican government to target public health activists.

At the time, the NSO Group denied its software would be used in such an event as it is intended only “for the investigation and prevention of criminal activities and terrorism.”

The Citizen Lab report said that the NSO’s government surveillance tool “may have been misused...on behalf of special commercial interests.”

Citizen Lab has reported in the past that the Pegasus spyware software had almost certainly been used to target a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a Mexican journalist.

Previous reports have said that the Pegasus software was sold to rulers with dubious human rights records in countries including Panama, Mexico, Turkey, Mozambique, Kenya, and Nigeria.

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