NSO's products have been tied to Saudi use in tracking and killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
11 Feb, 2019FORTUNE.COM
Undercover operatives allegedly approached and tried to discredit critics of controversial Israeli spyware company NSO Group, the Associated Press reported.
NSO Group’s smartphone hacking software allegedly helped Saudi Arabia track and ultimately kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mexico allegedly used the same software to monitor human rights lawyers and government critics.
Six people targeted in the undercover operations say they believe the efforts were an attempt to get information that could be used to discredit them. The people include two cybersecurity experts who have research NSO’s software, three lawyers involved in lawsuits targeting NSO either in Israel of Cyprus, and a London-based journalist who has written about the litigation.
The journalism and a lawyer in Cyprus agreed to meetings and were surreptitiously recorded. The video was broadcast on Israeli television.
Mazen Masri, a London-based lawyer working on the lawsuit in Israel, told AP that the operatives sought “dirt and irrelevant information about people involved.”
One of the researchers was suspicious of being asked to a meeting and requested AP to show up and video the meeting. The operative in that case was identified as Aharon Almog-Assouline, a former Israeli security official.
Fortune has reached out to NSO for further comment.
The tactics are similar to those involved in Harvey Weinstein’s alleged attempts to silence or discredit women charging him with sexual assault, according to a 2018 report by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker.
Black Cube describes itself as a “select group of veterans from the Israeli elite intelligence units that specializes in tailored solutions to complex business and litigation challenges.”