Israeli government raids NSO Group offices
Officials from multiple Israeli government agencies have raided today the offices of surveillance software vendor NSO Group, the Israeli Ministry of Defense announced today.
The raids have taken place after a consortium of international journalists revealed earlier this month that NSO Group had sold access to its software —the Pegasus platform— to oppressive governments across the world, which abused it to spy on journalists, human rights activists, and political rivals.
“We can confirm that representatives from the Israeli Ministry of Defense visited our offices,” an NSO spokesperson confirmed to The Record today earlier today.
“We welcome their inspection,” the NSO Group said.
“The company is working in full transparency with the Israeli authorities. We are confident that this inspection will prove the facts are as declared repeatedly by the company against the false allegations made against us in the recent media attacks.”
The raids targeted NSO Group’s Herzliya offices, near the city of Tel Aviv, sources have told The Record.
The nature of the raids or who participated was not disclosed. The raids were announced through a simple tweet by the Israeli Ministry of Defence earlier today. Machine-translated, the tweet reads as:
Representatives from a number of bodies came to NSO today to examine the publications and allegations raised in its case.
Israeli news outlet Calcalist, which also reported on the raids earlier today, cited an anonymous source who said the raids were more of a formal meeting than an in-depth audit of NSO’s documents and computer systems.
In western democracies, companies that sell offensive security software, such as hacking tools or surveillance software, are required to register with state government bodies and obtain an export license to sell their software.
The NSO Group currently holds a license from the Israeli government.
The company’s was attacked in court in 2019, when several human rights activist groups filed a lawsuit to force the Israeli government to revoke NSO’s export license, citing cases where the software was used for human rights abuses outside of typical law enforcement investigations. An Israeli court rejected the case in July 2020 in a surprising win for the NSO Group.
The raids today are not an indication that the company might have violated its export license, and that Israeli officials are going through regular investigative steps in a case that has received international attention, especially after several news outlets reported that NSO’s customers might have targeted the personal smartphones of several heads of state, including French President Emanuel Macron, who lobbied Israeli government officials earlier this week to look into the company’s affairs.