Credit Suisse Backed Spyware Sales Despite U.S. Blacklisting | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

Swiss bank Credit Suisse was among a group of creditors pushing the NSO Group to sell spyware after the company was blacklisted in the United States.

NSO Group, an Israeli manufacturer of cyberweapons was urged by creditors,  Credit Suisse among them, to continue to sell its Pegasus spyware after it was blacklisted by the U.S. government, the «Financial Times» (behind paywall) reported.

The blacklisting resulted from concerns that ill-intentioned governments were using the software as a tool to quell dissent by hacking into their systems. After it was revealed that Pegasus was used to hack the phones of reporters and activists, NSO faced financial difficulties. In November of last year, the U.S. blacklisted NSO over such use of the product.

The request to continue to sell the spyware came in December by lawyers representing Credit Suisse and some of the NSO creditors, including a hedge fund and U.S. investment bank Jefferies which oversaw a loan made to NSO, the «FT» said. When the request was made by Credit Suisse and NSO’s creditors, the firm had to borrow $10 million to pay employees in October.

In December, the letter was sent to Berkeley Research Group (BRG) which was appointed to manage a buyout fund that owned 70 percent of NSO.

«The lenders understand and support the need for caution given the global attention and heightened scrutiny focused on the company,» the letter said adding that creditors were «troubled» because NSO claimed BRG was prohibiting the firm from «pursuing and obtaining new customers,» according to the report. 

Need for Caution

The letter from Willkie Farr & Gallagher was seen by the FT. It is part of an Israeli court proceeding and while it does not name the creditors, the news outlet said people familiar said Credit Suisse and the Senator hedge funds were among those on behalf of which the letter was sent.

U.S. Blacklisting

Because of being blacklisted in the U.S., NSO is prohibited from buying services or equipment from U.S. companies unless the transaction is approved. NSO is also facing legal action from Apple which claims NSO used WhatsApp to deliver spyware.

In July of last year, a consortium of journalists published the «Pegasus Project» which, among other revelations, listed politicians and government officials that were targeted by the spyware, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

Since the publication of the Pegasus Project report, NSO said that as a result, «the only new potential customer booking for the Pegasus software system are from elevated risk customers,» one of which is alleged to have misused it in the past.

For its part, BRG said that would «in no circumstance» approve the sales, but that NSO should instead deal with the issues that led to it being blacklisted by the U.S.






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