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

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The chief executive of the Israeli spyware company NSO Group is stepping down as part of a corporate reorganization to focus on business with member countries of NATO, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

The reorganization comes after the United States government blacklisted NSO Group last November over its spyware Pegasus. When announcing the blacklisting, the Biden administration said that NSO Group had acted “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The move, which barred American companies from doing any business with the Israeli firm, followed reports by a coalition of news organizations last July that governments used Pegasus to target journalists, dissidents and opposition politicians in countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

“The company is reorganizing to prepare for its next phase of growth,” said Shalev Hulio, NSO Group’s chief executive and one of its three co-founders.

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 also can turn a mobile phone into a listening and tracking device.

NSO Group says it sells its spyware to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to help to prevent crime and terrorism.

Yaron Shohat, NSO Group’s chief operating officer, will lead the company and manage its reorganization until a successor is found for Mr. Hulio, the company said.

This is not the first time Mr. Hulio has given up the top job. He stepped down late last year and was replaced by NSO’s co-president, Isaac Benbenisti. But Mr. Benbenisti resigned less than two weeks afterward, following NSO Group’s addition to the American blacklist.

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