Since news broke that WhatsApp is suing an Israeli spyware company for exploiting a vulnerability in WhatsApp to plant spyware in users’ phones just by ringing the target’s device, people are wondering who and what NSO is. What is the NSO Group? According to its website, NSO Group, which also goes by Q Cyber Technologies, develops technology to “help government agencies detect and prevent terrorism and crime”. As per the website, the products are used exclusively by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight crime and terror. News that at least 20 Indians were targeted by the Pegasus software (more on it below) is especially damning because it suggests the government of India bought the product to surveil its own citizens who disagreed with the government. In a 2016 email to Forbes, the NSO group had said that it did not operate any of its systems and was strictly a technology companies. "The agreements signed with the company's customers require that the company's products only be used in a lawful manner. Specifically, the products may only be used for the prevention and investigation of crimes,” the email said. As per WhatsApp’s lawsuit, NSO Group was incorporated in Israel in 2010 and had a marketing and sales arm in the US, WestBridge Technologies, Inc. Between 2014 and 2019, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, Francisco Partners Management LLC, acquired a controlling stake in the NSO Group for $120 million. Now, however, it has been reacquired by its founders and management,…
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