Israel says blacklisted NSO Group 'has nothing to do' with government policies

Israel says blacklisted NSO Group 'has nothing to do' with government policies
© Associated Press/Andrew Harnik/Pool

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Saturday sought to distance the government from the NSO group, an Israeli company blacklisted by the U.S. earlier this week for allegedly providing phone hacking spyware to foreign governments for nefarious purposes.

"NSO is a private company, it is not a governmental project and therefore even if it is designated, it has nothing to do with the policies of the Israeli government," Lapid said at a press conference, according to Reuters.

"I don't think there is another country in the world which has such strict rules according to cyber warfare and that is imposing those rules more than Israel and we will continue to do so," he added.

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In July, 17 media organizations published an investigation that found NSO's Pegasus software was used to hack the smartphones of journalists, activists and government officials. 

While the firm has previously faced allegations of selling hacking tools to authoritarian governments, they claim those sales are only to law enforcement and intelligence agencies for legitimate purposes, Reuters reported.   

Following the news of the alleged attacks, Israel's Defense Ministry, which licenses the company to sell its products abroad, began its own investigation into the situation.

The findings of that investigation have not been announced and Israel has not restricted the company's business. 

Lapid's remarks were the first public comments about the matter from a senior Israeli minister since the firm was blacklisted by the U.S. on Wednesday, Reuters reported. 

After the blacklisting, NSO said it was "dismayed" with governments that abused its products, and ended agreements with those entities, Reuters noted.

Last week, a group of House Democrats — including Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Katie Porter (D-Calif,) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) — praised President BidenJoe BidenMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Dole in final column: 'Too many of us have sacrificed too much' Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 MORE for blacklisting NSO Group and four other international companies. 

The lawmakers, however, urged Biden's administration to consider imposing sanctions to further limit invasive spyware.