UNITED KINGDOM: The management of a number of businesses connected to the spyware maker NSO Group has relocated to London. UK PM Joe Biden’s administration had previously blacklisted the companies.
One of the most sophisticated hacking tools in the world, Pegasus, is sold by NSO, which has its headquarters in Israel.
However, several of the companies that handle some of the group’s operations, including one that NSO has claimed handles invoices and payments from NSO’s clients, have their headquarters in Luxembourg, which is part of the European Union.
The Guardian has learned that two newly hired UK-based officers will now oversee the management of five NSO-affiliated companies in London.
The corporations will continue to be governed from London, according to a representative for the organisations, who also insisted that they would remain “Luxembourg companies.”
The five firms’ UK-based directors recently requested that a Luxembourg-based employee of NSO Group post a notice on the company’s property informing visitors that the management and operations of the five companies had relocated to London.
Additionally, they requested that the company’s server and electronic files be transferred as soon as possible to the UK.
The political controversy could result from the action. NSO’s government clients have deployed Pegasus spyware on attorneys, activists, and other people in the UK in a number of instances, according to privacy and security experts.
The program may make a mobile phone into a remote listening device and allows users to hack into any phone without being noticed.
A group of 10 MPs and peers, including Labour MP Andy Slaughter, urged the then-prime minister, Boris Johnson, to impose sanctions on NSO last year.
The MPs claimed in their letter that confirmed cyberattacks against human rights advocates and others headquartered in the UK constituted “egregious breaches of domestic and international human rights law.”
According to the analysts, it is believed that the United Arab Emirates planned the attacks on No. 10 in 2020 and 2021. NSO said at the time that it was a target of “politically driven advocacy organizations” who disseminated “inaccurate and unsupported reports.”
After the Commerce Department reported that NSO had been used to create and provide malware to countries to target government employees, academics, and embassy personnel intentionally, the Biden administration added NSO to a US blacklist in 2021.
Additionally, the US administration claimed to have proof that the NSO’s technology had made it possible for states to carry out international repression.
The decision to add NSO to the US blacklist, sometimes called an entity list, forbids the transfer of any hardware or software that the company could use from the US to NSO.
News of the management of the NSO-affiliated companies moving their headquarters comes as the European Parliament investigates allegations that several European governments, including those in Spain, Hungary, and Poland, used Pegasus.
“The use of Pegasus or other surveillance spyware by EU states may have contributed to the illegal eavesdropping on journalists, politicians, diplomats, lawyers, businesspeople, or members of civil society,” according to an investigation being conducted by the parliament into the use of the surveillance tool.
One source with knowledge of the situation downplayed the importance of the move to London and stated that the companies would continue to be subject to Luxembourg legislation.
They said the modifications were done for administrative reasons.
In 2021, Berkeley Research Group (BRG), a US consulting firm, assumed control of the fund holding most of NSO. Berkeley Asset Management, a BRG subsidiary, has been in charge of managing the fund.
Also Read: Pegasus Row: Cyber Security Experts Find Proof of Spyware Use on Indian Citizens