Chief of Israeli Spyware Firm NSO to Step Down as It Revamps

JERUSALEM — The Israeli spyware firm the NSO Group said on Sunday that its chief executive, Shalev Hulio, was stepping down and that its chief operating officer, Yaron Shohat, would oversee a revamping of the company.

The reorganization comes after the United States government blacklisted the NSO Group in November, barring American companies from doing any business with the Israeli firm. In announcing the blacklisting, the Biden administration said that the NSO Group had acted “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The U.S. action followed reports by a coalition of news organizations in July 2021 that governments used NSO’s spyware Pegasus to target journalists, dissidents and opposition politicians in countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

Pegasus can covertly and remotely extract everything from mobile phones — including messages, photos, videos and contacts — without users having to click on a phishing link to provide access. It can also turn a mobile phone into a listening and tracking device.

NSO has said its technology is intended to help catch terrorists, pedophiles and hardened criminals and is sold to “vetted and legitimate” government clients, although it keeps its client list confidential.

“The company’s products remain in high demand with governments and law-enforcement agencies because of its cutting-edge technology and proven ability to assist these customers in fighting crime and terror,” Mr. Shohat said in a statement.

“NSO will ensure that the company’s groundbreaking technologies are used for rightful and worthy purposes,” he added.

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