This would have the effect of freezing NSO’s assets and forcing its biggest investors, including Novalpina Capital, a UK private equity firm – and its investors, including the Oregon State Pension Fund – to shut down. divest. It could also thwart NSO Group’s plans for a lucrative exit, such as an initial public offering or acquisition.
NSO was one of four companies that were blacklisted on Wednesday.
Candiru, another Israeli company, has been sanctioned based on evidence it supplied spyware to foreign governments. Positive Technologies of Russia, which was sanctioned last April for its work with Russian intelligence, and Singapore’s Computer Security Initiative Consultancy have been added to the list for trafficking hack tools, according to the announcement. of the Department of Commerce.
âThe United States is committed to aggressively using export controls to hold accountable companies that develop, commercialize or use technology to carry out malicious activities that threaten the cybersecurity of members of civil society, dissidents, government officials and organizations here and abroad, âGina Raimondo, the commerce secretary said in a statement.
NSO has said it only sells its spyware to governments with verified human rights records, with the aim of fighting terrorism and crime. But its spyware continues to appear on the phones of journalists, critics of autocratic regimes, and even children. Some of NSO’s targets – like Ahmed Mansoor, a critic of the United Arab Emirates – have been detained and held in solitary confinement for years after NSO’s spyware was found on their phones.
Apple has patched its iOS software several times to mitigate the vulnerabilities exploited by NSO spyware.
Candiru was founded by engineers who left NSO. Last July, Microsoft reported that Candiru’s spyware exploited a pair of Windows vulnerabilities to target the phones, computers and internet-connected devices of around 100 activists, journalists and dissidents in ten countries.
NSO and Candiru were supposed to be under the strict control of the Israeli Defense Ministry. But the ministry allowed companies to sell their products to a number of countries with a long history of serious human rights abuses, such as Saudi Arabia, and continued to approve their sale even after Mr. Khashoggi’s murder and the discovery of spyware on his associates phones.